Medical MissionPosted: January 9, 2016
By: Jocelyne Jesenof
On October 24, 2015 Lourdes Hospital ran a Medical Mission at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in Binghamton to provide uninsured Broome County residents free medical care. The services provided included, dental care, mammography, foot care, wound care, general medical screening, medicines from the Hope Dispensary, flu shots and financial counseling.
It is important that Lourdes Hospital arranged for the uninsured residents of Broome County with this day of free medical care and we support Lourdes in their limited effort to provide health care for the uninsured. There are thousands of our friends and neighbors who have no access to needed health care.
The Medical Mission opened its doors at 9:30 a.m., and was billed as a “first come first served” service and scheduled to last until the “end of the mission day”- 3:00 p.m.
By all accounts this was a successful undertaking. Although October 24th was one of the first really chilly and damp days of the fall it was reported that uninsured people began lining up for free services long before the doors opened, possibly as early as 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. People, even those in wheelchairs, had to wait outside in the cold until they were slowly admitted to the building.
Ascension Health, of which Lourdes Hospital is a part, has held Medical Missions at Home in Kentucky and Connecticut and plans on holding nationwide Missions in the future.
On the same day three members of the People’s Press arrived to distribute this newspaper and flyers advertising an upcoming forum on Medicare for All (to be held on November 12th) to persons waiting in line. It was our belief that those uninsured persons in line had the right to know that there is a movement in this country to try and obtain what we call Medicare for All. Medicare for All or Universal Health Care or a Single Payer Plan would prevent people from having to stand in line for hours waiting to obtain free health care because it would provide medical care for all regardless of their situation. Furthermore, a hospital like Lourdes would benefit because they wouldn’t have to spend time negotiating with the insurance companies on what procedures are allowed and how much they will be reimbursed for those procedures.
Lourdes decided that they did not want us to distribute the material and told us we had to go. After some discussion, we decided to continue distributing the flyers and newspaper. At no time were persons in line forced to take the paper and flyer. It was either taken or rejected but overwhelmingly accepted. In fact, we struck up friendly conversations with those waiting on line, and one of us even lent a coat to a waiting person who was shivering. A number of people in line were known to us. These were not indigent street people but friends and neighbors.
Lourdes staff at the clinic did not want information on universal health care distributed to people on line and called the Binghamton police. Four officers were dispatched to get rid of us. However, it was not within Lourdes’ jurisdiction to deny us the right to distribute the papers as we were on the sidewalk and street and were not blocking anyone’s ability to move about freely. The police seemed to understand that it was our right to freely distribute while we were on the street or sidewalk and after a long discussion they left and we continued our distribution.
All of us, in the community, must join in the effort to see that health care is available to all residents. This includes the medical institutions, the politicians and the general public.