A letter from America – solidarity with the NHS strike
We are proud to publish this letter from a health care worker and trade unionist from the United States regarding the strike in the National Health Service on Monday 24th November. The letter highlights the inequalities present in the healthcare system under capitalism particularly in the United States. We urge you to read the letter, share it on social media and amongst workmates, friends and family. Under capitalism any gains for working class people such as the NHS will constantly be under threat, that is why we in the Socialist Party fight for a socialist society – if you agree, why not join us? Click here to apply to join
Letter from a health worker in the United States
Fight for decent pay!
Healthcare should be about patient care – not profits!
The current offer – for only some NHS workers in England to receive a 1% one off payment is an insult to the work that nurses and other health professionals do. It will only discourage bright, young, energetic people from entering the field and push those with experience working in the field out. The job can be both highly rewarding, yet also very stressful and dangerous (with patients attacking staff more frequently than many people realize). NHS workers should not be living in poverty and deserve to at least keep their pay up with inflation!
The chaotic profit-oriented nature of the U.S. healthcare system shows what can happen if the NHS is allowed to be privatized. In Dallas in October a man recently arrived from Liberia without health insurance was sent home from the emergency room with tylenol and antibiotics for his fever. It turned out he had ebola! Hospitals in the U.S. have a strong incentive not to admit patients who don’t have health insurance. When he came back and was admitted, two of the nurses caring for him contracted ebola. It turns out the hospital not only didn’t have full body protective equipment for the nurses, they also weren’t trained on the equipment they had and the nurses were also taking care of other patients at the same time! This shows how quickly hospitals will cut corners with our and our patients’ health and safety in the interest of saving a dollar.
When someone without insurance is admitted to a hospital, it can mean their financial ruin. A woman from Canada recently gave birth in the U.S. when she went into labor early while on vacation. She received a $1 million hospital bill! The leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical bills. While Obama’s Affordable Care Act has made it easier for some people to get health insurance, for those who have quality health insurance through their job (like many nurses), the employers (and ultimately employees) will be forced to pay an additional expensive tax on their plans intended to discourage quality health insurance plans from existing!
Many nurses in the U.S. are relatively well paid and usually have health insurance and retirement benefits through their job. This has nothing to do with the private healthcare system in my opinion and everything to do with having unions in many parts of the country who have fought back and defeated attacks on health insurance, retirement, and have frequently gotten raises that keep up with inflation. After a national day of action for ebola safety on November 12th, which included strikes in California and Washington, D.C., mandatory guidelines for high standard ebola protection gear – in line with what the union was demanding – were instituted in the state of California. This recent example shows that it is worth organizing and going on strike when necessary! When we fight – we win!
Katie Quarles, RN
Shop Steward with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) at United Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota (personal capacity)