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April 10, 2013 / Paul Levy

More seriously now

Sunday, December 14, 2008, 4;40pm

I have poked a little light-hearted fun at the SEIU’s current corporate campaign against BIDMC, but there are those who feel strongly about this campaign and are deeply offended by it. In addition to our staff, it also includes patients of the hospital. One, Mike Scanlon, has written this blog posting on the topic. Mike had previously written me a personal note, and when I asked his permission to post excerpts here, leaving out his name he said, “Please feel free to use what ever part you would like. As for as leaving out my name or identifying information do not concern yourself. One of my complaints about this so called campaign is its anonymity, which I think is a coward’s refuge. It would also please me very much for the hundreds of staff members who have literally kept me alive over the last 8 years to know that I am not afraid to testify to their skill and compassion.”

Here are some excerpts from his blog:

The billboards I have seen cast aspersions on the hospital that I know to be false and inappropriate from my personal experience. After some exploration I discover that this is an attempt to unionize the hospital, but the advertising does not say anything obvious about that issue. Questions such as who it is that wants to unionize, what group they represent, what ills might result from the lack of unions, or what dialogue is taking place between the unions and the hospital administration are not raised by the advertising.

I can see no constructive agenda which approaches the issue of unionization, and as an observer on the street I don’t even know who is making these accusations or why. Add to these facts that it is only the “Jewish” hospital that is being targeted and the only conclusion I can draw is that even if this group is trying to accomplish something valid it is playing subtly on age old prejudices about Jews and money rather than presenting their position in a cogent and fair manner. This is very destructive and insults the good intentions of labor as a movement in general- a movement deeply indebted to Jews, by the way.

Why does all this matter to me? Because I, Irish Christian that I am, have been a patient at Beth Israel for years…. I came down with AIDS in 2001, and at the time had Tufts Premium health insurance. By 2003 my partner, Aramis Valverde (AKA Mad Genius)- a cuban catholic- had been unable to work for many months, had not been able to keep up his health insurance, and we found ourselves in a terrifying position. We went to the Beth Israel emergency room hat in hand, and were welcomed, immediately cared for, admitted to the hospital (for the first of three times) and the staff at Beth Israel not only cared for him in a stellar fashion, but they also treated me- who at the time had no legal standing- with a degree of compassion and respect that was truly moving. There was no talk of money and payment, except in this respect, that the hospital’s social workers went into high gear to negotiate with Masshealth and Medicare to find what funds they could on Aramis’s behalf, but the care they gave him was never contingent upon these efforts- and their message to me was not to worry, whatever the circumstances my partner would have the highest quality care, even if it was at the hospital’s expense, and I assure you he did.

In the year following Aramis’s death I found myself in the same position…. The care I received as a “Free Care” patient was identical to what I had received as a Tufts Premium member, and once again, not only the care, but the respect and compassion that the staff of the hospital extended, and continues to extend to me is truly amazing, not least the social workers who deal with the byzantine of the health care system.

I have personalized this because unlike the folks running the “Eye on the BI campaign” I want you to know exactly what my agenda is. I am a sixty year old Christian who has nursed a partner through through death from AIDS and been saved from the same fate the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center over the last few years. I am angered by the “Eye on the B.I.” campaign not just because they attack an institution to which I owe my life, but because they are doing it in an underhanded, destructive, and malicious way.

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