To the editor:
Done right, a healthy community makes a healthy economy. A healthy economy makes a healthy community. Right now, large portions of the population are experiencing neither.
This makes one thing very clear to me: The health care system needs to be decoupled from the economy to a greater extent than it currently is.
If the financial struggles of many health care institutions during a public health crisis, along with people losing their health insurance during a public health crisis isn’t clear, unequivocal evidence the United States health care system needs an overhaul, then I don’t know what possibly could be.
Health care should not be dependent on employment. Hospitals should not go bust because people are unexpectedly sick. Nurses should not be furloughed during a public health crisis. Health care workers should not have to resort to crowdsourcing fabric masks and gowns because of critical supply shortages. Health care staff should not have to worry about recrimination if they tell laypeople they are worried about spreading or contracting disease because they are forced to re-use disposable equipment. Tens of thousands of our elders dying in nursing homes of a preventable virus because of lack of equipment and lack of adequate staffing is something we as a society should never have let happen, yet here we are.
We must advocate for more thorough, objective oversight and less privatization of our healthcare institutions. I’d like to make sure we don’t forget the importance of mental health institutions, either.
Let’s pay our nursing assistants, home health aides, and ancillary staff living wages. More candidates would join the hiring and staffing pools. Better wages would lead to better employee retention and better quality of life for the people doing the backbreaking, often heartbreaking, work of caring for our loved ones.
By placing value on life, rather than returns on investment, we will turn this around.
Please join me in raising your voice to our state and federal legislators. Ask them to strengthen protections for our most vulnerable people and for our frontline health care staff. You can send in this letter to the editor, if you’d like. I won’t mind.
You may think I have a big voice, but I am only one person. If you speak up or write in, it matters.
Truly, the life you save may be your own.
Jennifer A. Holmgren