VIDA SI! MUERTE NO!
WINNING A HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
FOR OUR COMMUNITY
THROUGH FAITH AND DIRECT MASS ACTION…
PERSON BY PERSON, CLINIC BY CLINIC,
HOSPITAL BY HOSPITAL, CITY BY CITY
The Miracle Of The Posada – He Was Blind, But Now He Sees…
On December 27th, 2011, members of Lincoln United Methodist Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission marched 7 miles to the new Rush Medical Center on W. Harrison Street. Among the members were seven people urgently seeking liver or kidney transplants, as well as others in need of hospital care. They were all undocumented and, under the current laws of the U.S., uninsurable. Among the members of Lincoln United Methodist Church, as well, was a man with diabetes driven almost completely blind. He had been told that a laser treatment could restore his sight. He was also told he could not get this treatment because he had no health insurance.
The posada brought hospital administrators and doctors to join the prayers and songs of the faithful. Commitments were made. Three days later the man who was blind received his laser treatment – and he could see! Also begun was the process of providing transplants for the seven – but it was recognized that other hospitals and pharmaceutical companies would have to be brought to the table.
The 4 plus 1 to get 20…
In fact, the campaign to win health care for the uninsurable had begun two years earlier at Lincoln United Methodist Church which had begun negotiations with Rush Medical Center and several other major providers.
Chicago has a twenty year “death gap” between the insured and the uninsurable. That means that residents of Lincoln Park will live twenty years longer than residents of Humboldt Park or Pilsen or Little Village. This “death gap” is the result of the denial of early detection and response to treatable diseases. The long debate which resulted in ”Obama Care” did next to nothing for many in the Latino community, expressly excluding the undocumented from even purchasing health insurance.
The Familia Latina Unida Ministry began to recruit and train young people, members of La FuerZa Juventud, to pre-screen their families and neighbors for 4 treatable diseases: Diabetes, Heart Disease, Breast or Prostate Cancer and HIV/AIDS. They also organized groups to exercise and improve their diet and daily exercise (the “plus 1” of “4 plus1”). Hospitals and clinics were recruited to help with the screening. The goal was to recruit and train 1,000 young people who would each bring ten people through the screening process – to reach 10,000 people.
Changing the System…
The next step was to establish a “Table of Responsibility” between the hospitals and clinics to provide follow up care for those of the 10,000 that required it. Our campaign believes that the direct confrontation with faith and organized human need can force the health care system to make the changes, step by step, that political discussions have failed to bring about.
After the Posada, the first discussion with our churches and the Administration of Rush Medical Center was held. It was determined that more hospitals and clinics had to be added to the table. Care for the uninsurable should be a shared responsibility. Some progress was made for those specifically needing transplants but more needed to be done.
Witness For Life Sets The Table Of Responsibility…
On June 1st, Father Jose Landaverde and five of his members in need of transplants, began a hunger strike. They were joined by Pastor Coleman, Pastora Emma Lozano and members of Lincoln United Methodist and soon by other pastors and community leaders. The hunger strikers presented their demands to Loyola, Christ and the University of Illinois Hospitals, gathering in prayer circles outside of those hospitals. Finally, after 21 days, the three hospitals joined Rush in agreeing to form the table of responsibility and to provide for the transplants of those on hunger strike. The hunger strike ended in victory on June 21st – but the movement to re-form the healthcare system from below has just begun.
The Lessons of Faith and Struggle…
We have learned that prayer is powerful. We prayed for those who needed transplants every week for over a year.
We have learned that the witness of faith of those most affected in the fight for life is undeniable if it goes forward with persistence and dignity – putting life before material issues, with a willingness to sacrifice for the cause.
We have learned that the unity of our churches, of our pastors and of our congregations can bring about change, step by step.
We have learned that the institutions of this healthcare system can be brought to take responsibility for the uninsurable, person by person, family by family.
Now we are determined to bring other hospitals and clinics to the table of responsibility through the direct witness of our faith. We are determined to recruit and train our army of 1000 young health outreach workers – who will also be our future nurses and doctors. We are determined to forge a coalition of commitment of the faith communities and faith leaders of our Latino community. And we are committed to touch with healing a force of ten thousand people who, while taking responsibility for their own health, can also bring their health needs to bear witness to the changes that must be made.
We need not wait on political and corporate interests who have so long failed us when God teaches us that he will be with us whenever we come together – all together – in faith and obedience to him. Moreover, we should not wait.
How God Calls Us…
Latino and immigrant families, struggling to keep their families together in the face of an oppressive and hateful immigration law, have provided an offer of redemption to a nation where the covenant of marriage is fast falling into oblivion. Just so, the struggle for healthcare for the undocumented will map the course for the redemption of a health care system which now reeks of injustice, inequality and greed. In both cases, the social struggle relies on – and renews – the foundation of Holy Living through the intervention of the witness of faith to which the people of God should be called. The stone the builders throw away will become the cornerstone of the realization of the Kingdom of God!
Watch the ”Posada” and a “4 plus 1 to get 20” health fair on the Familia Latina Unida u-tube channel: