Vermont Nurses Returning From Haiti To Be Honored on “Healthcare Is A Human Right” Burlington Mardi Gras Float

* * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * * * February 26, 2010

BURLINGTON – Four Fletcher Allen nurses recently back from Haiti disaster relief efforts will be honored by the Healthcare Is A Human Right campaign on their float at Magic Hat's 15 Annual Mardi Gras Parade in Burlington, Saturday Feb 27th. The "Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign" is a grassroots organizing campaign aimed to change what is deemed 'politically possible' in an effort to make Vermont the first state in the country to establish the moral commitment that healthcare will be treated as a public good for every resident.

One of the nurses coordinating Vermont Haiti relief efforts is Mari Cordes, RN of Lincoln, VT. Cordes 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 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 reflect on 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."

The Vermont Workers' Center, which coordinates the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign, has had floats in the parade each of the last three years. "It's always a lot of fun and it all supports a great cause.” said James Haslam, lead organizer for the campaign. “This year our ‘Healthcare Is A Human Right’ campaign has grown by leaps and bounds and we have a great float planned for the parade to reflect that rapidly growing statewide movement. We're extremely energized to have so many nurses involved in the campaign -- they're the ones who witness everyday just how much our healthcare system needs real reform. We couldn't be more proud to have four of these inspiring nurses featured on our float!"

The Fletcher Allen nurses union, part of the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals UPV/AFT Local 5221, coordinated Vermont's Haiti relief effort along with the United Nurses & Allied Professionals from Copley Hospital. Nurses and other medical professionals have been fundraising since the earthquake to ensure that the Vermont Disaster Relief Teams can continue to serve in Haiti for many months. Hundreds of Vermont nurses and health professionals signed up to go, and 5 teams have already served relief efforts in Port Au Prince and on the Haiti - Dominican Republic border since mid-January. Vermont Haiti Relief Teams have been recognized for their steadfastness and clinical excellence by their relief partners and administrators, and are now receiving volunteers from other states.

BACKGROUND: In 2008, the Vermont Workers' Center launched the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign. After a large May 1, 2009 rally, the campaign began collecting thousands of postcards signed by Vermonters across the state supporting healthcare to be treated as a human right and calling for action in the Legislature in 2010. In September a series of ten People’s Forums on Healthcare took place across the state with 77 state legislators and more than 800 people participating. They 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 over 200 hundred people attended an event to deliver over 4000 postcards to Sen. Racine, Senate President Peter Shumlin, Speaker Shap Smith and House Committee on Healthcare Chair, Rep. Steve Maier. At the Jan 12th hearings themselves, over 350 Vermonters filled into the the Statehouse with an overwhleming majority calling for Vermont to fix the broken healthcare system. Vermont's US 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. If Vermont goes forward, other states will follow."

ENDORSERS: List of the 100+ Vermont organizations who have endorsed the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign click here:

- HEALTH PROVIDERS SAY “VERMONT SHOULD LEAD THE WAY!”: Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign and Report on Relief Effort in Haiti-

- Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign Toolkit, FAQ and January 29th Testimony to Joint Health Committees:

- "VT. health reform tops January Agenda" VT Press Bureau

- "To Your Health" 12/22/09 Seven Days column by Shay Totten

- Dec 10: Human Rights Day Report with Nurses & Sen. Racine:

- Sen. Racine Announces Hearings on S.88/H.100:

- Rutland Herald Editorial endorses HCHR Campaign:

- Musicians launch benefit CD for HCHR Campaign:

- VPR's All Things Considered with Scott Ainslie, musician and HCHR leader. Link to listen

- Dec 5: The Vermont NEA, the State's Largest Union Gets Behind HCHR Campaign

- Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign:

- Summary of bills S.88/H.100:

- Burlington Free Press My Turn "Vermont Must Lead The Way"

- Vermont Public Radio Report on HCHR: