Rebuilding for All, by Robb Burlage
Health care and health-related
services are New York City’s major employment sector, represented by major
activist unions. Our five largest hospitals are ranked in the top
twelve enterprises in the City in employment and revenue. The six
major mega-merged systems, including Mt. Sinai-NYU and the Catholic Network,
are the largest institutional complexes in the metropolitan area.
Their scientific research, development, and educational capacities are
arguably the City’s major international economic comparative advantage.
Now, with the new national challenge for a bio-terrorism/wartime public
health infrastructure, there is a core industry leadership opportunity
as part of Lower Manhattan rebuilding today.
billion dollar Public Health Infrastructure Bill should now make ground
zero NYC its epicenter (not, as it is now, CDC-Atlanta nor FBI-DC); likely
led by the Center for Public Health Preparedness at Columbia and its rapidly
growing partnerships with CDC, specialized scientific industry, and state
and city health departments across the U.S.
As the Times Metro section
has reported, hospitals have been hard hit by lost patient visits, on the
one hand, and by a growing number of uninsured needy and at-risk patients
services costs. Betances and Chinatown Community Health Centers were
major support centers near ground zero and experienced damage and shutdown,
alongside the costly dislocations of NYU Downtown and University Hospitals,
HHC Bellevue and Gouverneur, St. Vincent’s, and Beth Israel Hospitals.
A survey of the 30 federally qualified Community Health Centers in the
metro region came up with $2 million in immediate costs/lost revenues impacts
and a projected 5-10% increase in the uninsured patients being served.
These CHC’s are the frontline of a community-based public health infrastructure
comprehensively protecting all communities for the diseases of economic
insecurity and environmental-occupational stresses as well as bio-terrorism.
Betances (Lower East Side) and Chinatown Health Centers can play a major
catalytic role in Community District micro-plans, as integral to the Lower
Manhattan rebuilding plans.
The centerpiece of healthy
rebuilding for all is to demonstrate, on a targeted communities and metro-regional
basis, a truly protectively rebuilt public health infrastructure - a “National
Defense Universal Health
Care Act” (as in the 1950’s Cold War/Sputnik challenge of the National
Defense Education Act]. A supportive-housing-inclusive Habitat
collective housing industry development demonstration and basic communications
and transportation infrastructure developments are essential to health
care access and health-protecting environment.
Pier 94’s “9/11 Families”
support process, along with those of the Central Labor Council and interfaith
and inter-professional support responses, are a true model of what working
economic and health security family support can be, as compared to the
old Giuliani Workfare, characterized by punitive make-work, which displaces
City employees and college students.
This should all be part
of a “Healthy Rebuilding for All” process, which publicly begins immediately,
but is given new leadership after the November 6th elections. And,
on January 1st, the new City Administration and City Council inaugurate
an officially working community/labor-participatory planning process with
a vision of a “new New Deal” for New York City’s communities, like real
public housing, world-class municipal hospitals, truly public primary,
secondary, and higher education, and real mass transit of the post-World
War II period, as Josh Freeman’s book, Working Class New York, evokes.
(inter)faith-based organizations, and all community-based public health
advocacy organizations should provide the anticipatory support now for
the Central Labor Council, New York State Federation, and health sector
leaders 1199/SEIU and DC37 to provide a visionary campaign and front-line
policy muscle for a “Healthy Rebuilding” movement now.
Robb Burlage is director
of healh programs for the National Council of Churches.
us your responses. We may print them in an upcoming forum.