Occupy Wall Street’s Volunteer Medical Aid

Elaine Hirsch, Kmareka’s West Coast correspondent, sends a post about some of the professionals who volunteer their skills at Occupy Wall Street. Here in Providence the need is clear, and Occupiers with first aid skills have responded and in cooperation with Public Safety have helped people in need get to the Emergency Room. Health security for the 99% would free our workers from scrambling for a job with benefits or being one health emergency away from financial disaster. Small businesses would be the first to benefit, and I know some doctors who would welcome an integrated system that let them do what they went to school for– and I don’t mean billing.

Occupy Wall Street’s Healthcare

A number of sympathetic doctors, nurses, veterinarians, and other healthcare professionals have banded together to volunteer their time, seeking to provide free medical care for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. A number of the healthcare professionals involved in the endeavor identify with an informal group calling itself Doctors for the 99%. These caretakers’ assistance goes beyond merely supporting the Occupy protests, but in its way constitutes its own protest, adding dissatisfaction with the American healthcare system to college and master’s degree debt, bank bailouts, joblessness, and other woes.

Some of the doctors have occupied an abandoned hospital, while elsewhere round-the-clock care is available in a surplus medical tent reminiscent of an old M.A.S.H. Set. Most of the care being offered is relatively rudimentary. There have been reports of nurses stitching wounds and doctors providing over-the-counter medication, but most of the care seems to be basic first aid and preventive treatment.

A major goal seems to have been to limit the spread of contagious disease in the cramped conditions common in the protest camps. To that end, a number of doctors from Columbia Health Center and Doctors for a National Health program recently arrived to offer free flu shots. As winter approaches, another major focus of the medical team has been educating the protesters about warning signs that indicate the beginning stages of hypothermia.

According to Pauly Kostora, a licensed practical nurse from New Mexico, protesters will also be able to find free mental health treatment.

The healthcare system in place among the protesters is limited, and the professionals volunteering their time rely considerably on actual hospitals. No doctors have come forward to acknowledge providing prescriptions, and when protesters arrive with serious injuries, nurses are instructed to call emergency services.

The volunteers are either sympathetic to the movement or have joined its ranks outright. The doctors and nurses report anger over the state of healthcare in the United States, and view the assistance they’re offering to the protesters as a contribution to the fight for universal health care. The doctors and nurses appear to be working day jobs, and finding time to offer aid to the protesters during their off-hours.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

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11 responses

  1. Let’s see what is the litany of the “goals” these largely societal rejects requires and includes: hypo-needles dropped on the ground; mental illness requiring ad hoc clinics; measures required to contain diseases; parks and streets turned into open sewers; assaults; rapes and attempted rapes; vandalism of private and public property; assaults on police and of course fulminations of druggies, alcoholics, felons, abject life failures now with a media pulpit to occupy the evening news. In return all they ask is forgive school loans for classes they never attend; give them jobs for which they have no qualifications, since any weekend job supplement in any metropolitan newspaper has pages o employment ads for skilled workers; food they want at no cost; health insurance others should pay for; no cost housing others should pay for including mortgages they should never have had to begin with; and of course the freedom to demand the end of government and society. All these are simply wonderful goals, are they not? From what can be seen of the Wall Street crowd organizers, the fact that the “leadership” cadre “occupies” $700/day hotel suites in Manhattan, rather than filthy tents in cold parks, embodies this delightful scam. It was P.T. Barnum, as I recall, who said something about, “a sucker born every minute,” or some such.

    1. What would I know about it? I’ve only gone to Occupy Providence and talked to the people there over the last 30 days, heard our City Council praise them and followed my local news.
      Actually, the Occupiers represent a broad and diverse section of my city– those of us who see the concentration of wealth in the 1% as bad for democracy.
      Where do you get your information?

      1. Providence has been somewhat different from what I’ve seen of the NYC,Oakland,and some other “Occupy” sites via the media.

  2. One of the good things about the “occupy” movement is it has helped call renewed attention to the goal of universal health care which the rest of the industrialized world has (even some non-industrialized world like in Tunisia) where everyone is insured at much lower total cost and the societies mostly have better health care outcomes, including longer life spans. But in the US we are prisoners of the “free market” ideology that values only profit and cares little for anything else. Naturally those who suck up to this system demonize those who try to reform it. But that system seems increasingly on the ropes as wealth accumulates in a relatively few hands and so many others are left behind, a recipe for social instability.

    1. Barry-let’s say in Tunisia,which you point out-how good is the low cost healtg care?
      Why do people come here for treatment?Why do we attract foreign doctors into our best residency programs?
      Availability of care and cost are only two factors-quality is another,and arguably more important.
      It seems that for serious conditions,care is available more easily here than preventiive care or routine care(which might avoid the crisis care in some cases)-so there’s no easy answer.

  3. Of course, Tunisia being a poor country can’t afford a lot of top of the line medical equipment sometimes needed so their wealthiest folks sometimes go to Europe or the US for that. But ordinary people there are generally covered for ordinary needs and don’t have to worry that if they lose their job they can’t get medical care. And by the way, Americans sometimes go to other countries for more affordable medical care, remember those going to Canada for cheaper drugs?

    I admit I am somewhat embittered about our for-profit-at-all costs medical system from family experience as my mother, upon retiring in Florida, bought insurance there, only to be denied coverage a few months later when diagnosed with cancer since the company claimed it had to have been a pre-eisting condition. Of course she sued, but the company lawyers stalled until she was to sick to care. A lot of good our high-quality high-tech stuff did her!

    But to end on a better note, let me add my best wishes for all the bloggers for a happy Thanksgiving, on the whole we do have a lot to be thankful for.

    1. Barry-It all comes down to whether the Federal government can make buying something compulsory.
      I would guess that since universal medical coverage is a high priority for you maybe you can’t see the potential for abuse.
      What happens when the government tells you it’s required to buy something else,not related to health care,which you don’t want?
      Well,the precedent will have been set.Talk about a slippery slope.
      I’m not saying universal health coverage is bad-it’s not good to have people walking around by the millions who can’t afford coverage.
      My wife’s sister and her husband went for years with no coverage for themselves or their children,and they operated a small business-they worked hard and paid taxes and they couldn’t afford health insurance.At least that’s what they said.
      It will all come down to a Supreme Court decision and I,not being a lawyer,have no clue as to what the result will be.I don’t know the answer-maybe a public option without mandatory purchase might be the way,but of course,being a math failure,I haven’t any idea if it’s financially possible.

      1. Joe, I would assert that under a whole chain of commerce clause cases over the past 60 or so years, this legislation will be found constitutional, even by this court.

        I think Professor Chemerinsky’s editorial in this weekend’s projo hit the nail on the head – everyone is a consumer of medical services, thus making it a national issue ripe for congressional legislating under the commerce clause. And the constitutional standard applied to this will be the least restrictive – that the act of the Congress was rationally related to the economic issue it wishes to regulate.

        Now to address what might be coming in response, the court over the past decade to fifteen year struck down statutes restricting possession of a gun w/i 1000 feet of a school and the Violence Against Women Act as being too attenuated from the commerce clause.

        Anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my analysis.

        Have a good one.

  4. Donald,

    It seems as if you have been so bombarded with poor media coverage of OWS that each isolated incident has been amplified to become all-encompassing themes of the movement.

    Regardless of your claims of how entitled you believe the entire OWS movement is, here’s some food-for-thought. A huge reason that we are in this financial crisis today is because of the entitlement that hedge-fund managers (who believed the credit default swaps they invested in could only profit, a fact which simply isn’t true in the field of finance), politicians (who were so driven to have every American buy a house that they produced a legislative environment which allowed for banks to lend to insolvent families), and the higher education system (which churned out college graduates because employers hired everyone when the economy is doing well) all had.

    In short, the people and institutions which hold the most power (essentially the 1%) were blinded by their entitlements, which is what got us into this crisis in the first place. Hedge funds didn’t take the time to stress-test their “complicated” models and only assumed for the best. Politicians didn’t understand the externalities of their lax policies. Educators were slow to adjust to a changing economy. These are the figures that OWS are blaming. Since these institutions hold heavy sway over public policy and public finances, shouldn’t you be focusing on how their “entitlements” pre-crisis led us to our current predicament instead of worrying about whether some college students want to have health insurance?

  5. Geoff-have a good one too.
    I tend to not try to predict what the Court will do.
    The Kelo case threw me for a loop.
    I was the arressting officer in a case that went 9-0 in favor of the Federal government(Stevich vs.INS),which doesn’t happen too often.
    The case didn’t involve the circumstances surrounding Stevich’s arrest itself,but a political asylum issue raised at a later time.

    1. You’re right on essentially saying that nobody ever got rich betting on what a court will do!

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