This I Believe

Jennifer - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on April 12, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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For this I believe…

As I walk by the Cook County Hospital pharmacy, I see an elderly lady all alone pushing her walker down the hall muttering to herself- a 7 day wait for my medicines….on morning rounds, I see a crying girl as she sits by her mother who just suffered a massive stroke at the age of 42…I see beds lining the hallway of the ER as patients wait for hospital beds to open…in the clinic, I see a man addicted to multiple drugs with nowhere to turn to, not even a shelter to take him… I see people from many countries from Togo to Mexico lost in the hallways as the look for someone to care for them and navigate the confusing maze that our healthcare system has become.

I sit there frustrated writing letters, calling patients back on my cell phone, working tirelessy to try and help them. Now, though, that may all come to an end, as I hear the latest news that the Cook County which includes the third largest city in the US- Chicago- is cutting it’s healthcare budget by 17% and hundreds of employees will be fired and many of the community and school based clinics will close. The system is already overwhelmed with problems of access and lack of resources. The standard of care, as we know it, does not exist in a County healthcare setting. The patients wait one to two years for mammograms, colonoscopies, MRI’s… how can this be when a privately insured patient can get whatever done the next day? It is pure discrimination and pure tragedy. These are people too. These are people with families, jobs, responsibilities…. where is our responsiblity as a people to say that this is wrong. It is catastrophic to see people truly suffering in what is the beginning of the demise of public healthcare system around the country. These “safety net” institutions are becoming extinct and what is left is not a single outstretched hand to help the people who need healthcare. People with no insurance are treated and streeted in ER’s across the country and told to get their necessary treatments elsewhere. Often, I see these very people. Some have been told there is a “mass in their pancreas” and given a paper to come to County for their care. This is appalling to me since this very person most likely has pancreatic cancer and has been literally “dumped” into the hands of an already overloaded system.

These very patients are people like you and me- some work everyday as a security guard, or even at large companies, yet cannot afford the healthcare premium. Now, as a County, we are saying “too bad.” These people have nowhere else to go. They cannot afford healthcare. Yet, they can only afford to do nothing and let their health worsen- let the diabetes destroy their vision and kidneys, let the high blood pressure destroy their heart and brain, let the cancer go undetected, let the pains go untreated. This is blatant pain and suffering. This is wrong. To be in one of the richest countries in the work and sit back and let it happen is wrong. This inaction is the same as doing wrong. People will die prematurely and people will suffer. Yet, we sit and listen to our news of winning sports teams and movie stars and countless weather reports. What we need to do as a people, is to both say out loud and believe that healthcare is not a privilege but a right. It is vital to who we are. It is what sustains us. It is for this that I believe….