‘Patients are commodified,’ NYSNA President warns

On the periphery of NYC's Union Square this week, a meeting convened by Physicians for a National Health Program, dubbed "Labor and the ACA: Problems, Threats, and the Road Forward," filled the conference room with committed advocates of single payer – students, MDs, public health experts, union staffers and members, allied organizations. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, sponsor of NYS's single payer bill, "New York Health," was also present. NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez's presentation gripped the gathering.

"We believe that people in their hearts know what to do," said Judy, against the backdrop of an evocative slide show replete with popular images and poignant captions. "Healthcare is a human right."

It is not hard to be overwhelmed, she said. "Hospitals were empires before, now they're mega-empires." Amidst the concentration of healthcare resources, a new wave of merger and acquisition, powerful combinations of hospital corporations have put the professionalism of nursing under attack.

Electronic Medical Record keeping, increased surveillance, staff cuts – all add to reductions in services, overcrowding and threats to quality care. A photo of an ER – reminiscent of the same at Montefiore Medical Center, where Judy works – revealed patients and nurses densely packing the rooms and hallways.

"Everything is about the bottom line," she said. "Patients are commodified."

Some reforms in the Affordable Care Act are confusing, Judy remarked, exacerbating problems we have. Still, she added, "We cannot fall victim to right-wing attacks on the ACA."

"Nothing is more professional than fighting for quality care for patients," Judy said.