Following the 43rd Annual Legislative Conference sponsored by the NY State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, NYSNA RNs gathered in Albany on February 15th to protest healthcare inequalities that are rampant throughout the state, and especially affect poor Blacks and Latinos. From the outset, many minorities are living in less healthy environments, in communities disproportionately exposed to toxins and live in communities with less green space and healthy food options.
Taking Mayor De Blasio's "Tale of Two Cities" campaign slogan to the state capital, they protested against a healthcare-specific "Tale of Two New Yorks," characterized by what Gwen Lancaster, RN at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and NYSNA leader, notes is a two-tier system: an atmosphere of top-shelf healthcare for rich patients and "another for underserved, low-income patients who struggle to get the healthcare they need."
The RNs delivered a petition calling for the NYS Department of Health to end policies like hospital cuts and closures in low-income communities, outsourcing of vital healthcare services, and unsafe RN staffing levels at facilities that remain in these neighborhoods, all of which widen this gap in quality care.
While a NYC-specific difference in care is evident by poor staffing ratios in less wealthy boroughs, there are glaring racial inequalities throughout the state. While 13% of White residents of the state are uninsured, 34% of Hispanics, 21% of Blacks, and 24% of Asian-Pacific Islanders are uninsured. This is especially disturbing when considering that on a national basis, Blacks and Latinos have the highest rates of heart disease and stroke, hypertension and diabetes. Black women are 8% more likely to die from breast cancer.
NYSNA believes that a single-payer system is the best way to end this "Tale of Two New Yorks." A single-payer system is the only solution that will ensure universal access to quality care for all NYS residents.
NYSNA, as represented by RNs at the Albany rally, also argued that in the short-term, it is essential that local communities have a voice in healthcare decisions that affect their neighborhoods, and that we must all fight to protect and expand public hospitals like HHC, WMC and ECMC.