There is no shortage of encouragement and benevolence all around us during this global pandemic.
People get it we are all in this together.
No one embodies this sentiment more than those on the front line, like healthcare workers, who still–one month into the national emergency–have to improvise personal protective equipment (PPE) because the White House has left mostly Democratic states to compete against each other for it.
Unfortunately, the White House is not the only antagonist in this fight of our lives.
For-profit hospitals have been retaliating against healthcare workers for speaking out against preventable dangerous conditions.
An example of this is Dr. Ming Lin, a 30-year emergency physician at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., who posted “SHAME ON PEACEHEALTH” to his Facebook page, vocalizing his concerns over the dearth of protective equipment, delays in coronavirus test results, and virus screening practices that involve evaluating patients in waiting rooms.
Another is Chicago nurse Lauri Mazurkiewicz whom Northwestern Memorial Hospital dismissed for warning coworkers the type of mask they were required to wear was “less safe and less effective” than N-95 masks.
NYU Langone Health threatened staff with “disciplinary action, including termination” for talking to the press without consent.
Another way for-profit healthcare companies are exploiting their professionals, if not outright firing them, is slashing their hours and pay.
But that’s not stopping many wealthy medical staffing companies from expecting a government bailout.
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is hurting business because people who aren’t critically ill are generally avoiding emergency rooms.
Johns Hopkins Medicine surgical oncologist, Dr. Marty Makary, studies health care costs.
“Private equity consolidated large physician groups in an unprecedented financial gamble using capital and banking on revenue not skipping a beat. When the investment model works, investors get rich. When the investment goes sour, who bears the risk? As in the mortgage crisis of 2008, taxpayers are bearing the risk of financial gambles of investors.”
The Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing added:
“We need to do everything to support health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic, and we want to make sure they get the resources they need to care for patients and protect themselves. At the same time, federal funds should not be used to bail out private equity firms during a public health emergency, especially when there are no federal surprise billing protections in place to protect consumers at their most vulnerable.”
Private equity firm KKR owns Envision Healthcare, a prominent medical staffing firm.
One anesthesiologist speaking anonymously for fear of retribution reported his base salary was cut 30% while being required to intubate COVID-19 patients, elevating exposure risk to himself and his colleagues.
“My hope in any type of bailout going toward health care providers is it should go to them. It should not be going toward rewarding executives or shareholder profits. Anybody actually coming in physical contact is taking all the risk, so that’s where the relief should be going.”
This is a perfect example of how laissez-faire capitalism, normally corrosive to Democracy, poisons it at a time when we need to set profit aside for compassionate policies government has the role and duty to provide.
There is no better time for a Medicare-for-all single-payer national healthcare system.