MONTPELIER – Over a hundred Vermont union nurses and other healthcare professionals held a press conference calling on Vermont to lead the way in establishing healthcare as a basic public good for all Vermonters at the Statehouse today. The event is part of a growing grassroots campaign called the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign, which is coordinated by the Vermont Workers’ Center. There was a live call from Haiti reporting on Vermonters disaster relief efforts as part of the press conference in addition to talking about healthcare in Vermont.
Last week, the first of several delegations of Vermont union nurses and health professionals went to Haiti to help provide emergency care to victims of the catastrophic earthquake. The report was made by delegation leader Mari Cordes, RN of Lincoln, VT who is also a leader of the nurses union at Fletcher Allen Health Care and is active in the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign (HCHR). Cordes, who recently facilitated a HCHR Forum in Vergennes, testified at the Statehouse a week before her departure to Haiti, calling for Vermont to lead the way in providing healthcare for all. Cordes said the disaster has made her think of the campaign’s efforts to pass universal healthcare in Vermont, adding that she "prays that we can learn how to care for all of our brothers and sisters without waiting for a disaster to happen first."
After the press conference, a group of leaders of the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign provided testimonies to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee about their goals for Vermont to lead the way by passing a comprehensive healthcare bill which would establish a Medicare-For-All style system for all Vermonters.
“The time is now for Vermont to be a leader in this country in making sure we all have the care we need and all of our healthcare dollars go towards healthcare,” said Susan Lucas, RN, the president of the nurses union at Copley Hospital.
Jennifer Henry, RN, stated in her testimony that "As nurses we see the effects of our broken healthcare system every single day. How many more stories of pain and suffering must be told before real change occurs? The money and power of the big corporations that is creating a storm of distraction in Washington is a distant rumbling in Vermont – what we hear – loud and clear are the voices of our citizens. We need a Medicare-for-all style system in Vermont. It is possible and we are working to make it happen for Vermont. For a small state, Vermont has often been a leader. We have the will, we have the courage, we have the strength and now we must work together to make it happen."
Henry is the president of the Fletcher Allen nurses union and United Professions of Vermont which also includes over 3,500 healthcare and higher education professionals statewide.
Background: In 2008, the Vermont Workers' Center launched the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign and on May 1, 2009 organized a "Healthcare Is A Human Right" Rally at the Statehouse which drew over twelve hundred participants and was the largest weekday rally in the state capitol’s history. After the rally, the campaign began collecting thousands of postcards signed by Vermonters across the state who support Healthcare Is A Human Right and calling for action in the Legislature in 2010. In the last few months the VWC held a series of ten People’s Forums on Healthcare across the state with 77 state legislators and more than 800 people participating. The forums were held in Montpelier, Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Rutland, Danville, St. Albans, Colchester, Morrisville and Vergennes. At the December 1st People's Forum in Colchester, Sen. Doug Racine the Chair of the Vermont Senate Health & Welfare Committee, announced that joint hearings on single payer bills H.100 and S.88 will begin on January 12. On January 6th about 200 hundred supporters delivered more than signed 4000 postcards demanding legislative action to Sen. Racine, Senate President Peter Shumlin, Speaker Shap Smith and House Committee on Healthcare Chair, Rep. Steve Maier. Over 350 Vermonters filled into the the Statehouse for the January 12 Hearing, with an overwhelming majority calling for Vermont to fix the broken healthcare system. Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders said at the event "We have an historic opportunity, not only for the people of this state but for the people of America, of leading this country forward in terms of a comprehensive, cost effective universal healthcare system, and if Vermont goes forward, other states will follow."
- "VTers Report Challenges, Rewards at Working at Haiti Border" WCAX, http://www.wcax.com/global/video.asp?clipId=4486316&autostart=true
- "A Call for Health Reform" Jan 13, Times Argus, http://www.timesargus.com/article/20100113/NEWS/100119988
- "Hundreds Attend Statehouse Health Care Hearing" Jan 12, Seven Days, http://7d.blogs.com/blurt/2010/01/hundreds-attend-statehouse-health-care...
- "Public hearing on health care promises to turn personal" Jan 10, Rutland Herald & Times Argus http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20100110/NEWS/100119998 (great photo)
- "Flurry of Activity in First Day of Session", VT Press Bureau, http://www.timesargus.com/article/20100107/NEWS02/1070348/1003/NEWS02
- "Workers Lobby for Single Payer Health Care" VT Public Radio, http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/86826/
- "Health Care Rally Held at Vermont Statehouse" http://www.wptz.com/news/22165408/detail.html
- "Group heads to Montpelier to push for healthcare reform" http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=11776082
- "VT. health reform tops January Agenda" VT Press Bureau http://www.timesargus.com/article/RH/20091214/NEWS03/912140360
- "To Your Health" 12/22/09 Seven Days column by Shay Totten http://www.7dvt.com/2009your-health
- Dec 10: Human Rights Day Report with Nurses & Sen. Racine: http://www.workerscenter.org/node/190
- Sen. Racine Announces Hearings on S.88/H.100: http://www.workerscenter.org/node/185
- Rutland Herald Editorial endorses HCHR Campaign: http://www.workerscenter.org/node/138
- Musicians launch benefit CD for HCHR Campaign: http://vermontcareforall.org/
- VPR's All Things Considered with Scott Ainslie, musician and HCHR leader. Link to listen http://www.vpr.net/flash/audio_player/audio_player.php?id=29863
- Dec 5: The Vermont NEA, the State's Largest Union Gets Behind HCHR Campaign http://www.workerscenter.org/node/189
- Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign: www.workerscenter.org/healthcare
- Summary of bills S.88/H.100: http://www.workerscenter.org/node/168
- Burlington Free Press My Turn "Vermont Must Lead The Way" http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20091202/OPINION02/912020315/...
- Vermont Public Radio Report on HCHR: http://www.workerscenter.org/node/134