California Road Trip, Day 17, Visalia

Strategizing!

Happy to report, we had a large turnout for our event in Visalia, opened by an awesome  mariachi band.   One of the local speakers introduced himself as a “recovering hospital administrator turned single payer advocate.”

Speaking of administrators, our organizers in Stockton have been working for months to find a space in the local county hospital for an educational event. We were invited by the CNA representative as well as one of the nurses.   After an intitial postitive response, the Director stopped returning calls and emails.   Last week, after looking at our website, he stated unequivocally that the Mad As Hell Doctors are too political.  The “hospital”  has no desire to be embroiled in politics.  How about a gathering on the lawn outside the hospital?   “Nah,” he says and “if you do, security will escort you off the property.”   It mattered little that the hospital loses $10-20 million every year, subsidized by county taxpayers, because our sick care non-system victimizes those that serve Stockton-like communities.  It mattered little that our agenda is not political but social.  We support neither the Republicans nor the Democrats.  We advocate for a health care system that yields “value” for all the money we are spending.  Value, in this case, is measured by health and the alleviation of suffering.

As it turns out, the “Director” is not a county employee.  He works for the consulting corporation that has been hired to manage the hospital… the sort of corporation that profits by the chaos created when health care is considered a commodity.    After mulling over the ramification of all our options, the local organizers decided to respect the Director’s decision.   Subsequently, he (finally) returned my call, followed by a long respectful, amicable chat in which I bluntly stated my disappointment and, among other things, my concern about his conflict of interest.   He’s a gracious, articulate man with a tough job, wearing too many hats.  Dr. Mike Huntington frequently cites Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Frankly, one of our options was to gather for our picnic on hospital grounds despite the Director’s objection and threat.  We were prepared to get arrested.  Out of respect for our hosts, who will continue to work with hospital administration, we won’t be getting a tour of the police station.  Bummer.  Sounds like a great adventure.

–paul hochfeld

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