MNA nurses have been stretched thin this during this pandemic. From employers failing to provide PPE or adequate levels of PPE, nurses know that they must take their advocacy beyond the bedside and to the public. Concurrently, nurses are witnessing the failures of our broken healthcare system in terms of racial disparities and access to care for many of Minnesota’s low-income residents. On Wednesday, August 5th, Bethesda hospital RN, Stella Obadiya, made the case in front of the Saint Paul City Council to support a resolution calling for the enactment of the Minnesota Health Plan and Medicare for All.
Bethesda and St. Joe’s were facing potential closure prior to the start of the pandemic. In her remarks to the City Council Obadiya said, “I want to thank you for your support to keep Bethesda and St. Joe’s hospitals open for necessary healthcare access in St. Paul. Under the current healthcare system, huge healthcare corporations make decisions about where to open, or close, healthcare facilities based on their bottom line, not on the community’s healthcare needs. As a nurse leader at Bethesda, I know the specialized services provided by Bethesda are critically important. Under the MN Health Plan and Medicare for All, placement of healthcare facilities will be determined through regional planning based on the health needs of the community, not the profit or reserve margin of corporate healthcare.”
She added, “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethesda was designated a COVID-19 specialty hospital. It was clear from the start that M Health Fairview had no preparedness plan to face a global pandemic. That is because they operate on a “just in time” business model when they should operate on the precautionary principle – we should not wait for scientific proof of harm before taking action to protect people’s health. The MN Health Plan and Medicare for All prioritize planning for potential catastrophes saving money overall by shunning the current free-market system that is now charging $8 for an N95 mask that costs $1 per-pandemic.”
Obadiya continued, “As a nurse of color working at a hospital that treats our beautifully diverse community, I see firsthand the effects of racial disparities in our system. According to the Ramsey County community health assessment completed by the Health Department, 72% of emergency room visits could be prevented if people had primary care. Up to one half of minority youth do not get needed mental health care. Over 50% of minority pregnant women in the county do not get prenatal care until the 3rd trimester.”
“The life expectancy for community members living in the neighborhoods of Rondo, Frogtown, and Downtown is over five years shorter than those living in the surrounding suburbs. Racial health disparities are but one example of structural racism which in and of itself negatively impacts health. The MN Health Plan and Medicare for All establishes a system that finally allows us to address these horrible racial health disparities.”
After Obadiya and others’ remarks concluded, each member of the council asked to speak. Councilmember Jane Prince said, “COVID-19 has taught us how broken our healthcare system is.” She said that she was grateful to organizations like MNA for bringing this issue forward. Councilmember Dai Thao added, “Healthcare costs are something we can’t escape.” Councilor Mitra Jalali said that she feels that this is something that should not be controversial. Councilmember Chris Tolbert said, “This pandemic has shown how important it is to not have healthcare tied to your job.” Council President Amy Brendmoen added, “It’s a shame that this is the reality in a country of our wealth.”
Brendmoen called for a roll call vote on the resolution, and it passed 6-0. Councilmember Nelsie Yang brought the resolution forward and thanked MNA and other stakeholders for advocating and supporting the resolution. Brendmoen and Yang agreed that the city will work together on drafting a letter to state and federal officials letting them know that city residents urge them to act on this issue.
If you would like to get involved with this issue, visit: https://mnnurses.org/issues-advocacy/take-action/ or https://www.nationalnursesunited.org/medicare-for-all. You can find more information about the Minnesota Health Plan by visiting: https://mnhealthplan.org/.