On this date the Hunger Strike For Health Care began at Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission. 14 people went on hunger strike because hospitals are refusing to put undocumented patients in need of organ transplants on their waiting lists. Hunger strikers included critically ill patients and loved ones. The hunger strike was announced to the public with a press conference at the Mission.
The Hunger Strike For Health Care marched from Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission to UIC Medical center to deliver a letter including their list of demands. The CEO of UIC Medical Center agreed to work with the hunger strikers and other area hospitals to find solutions to the issues highlighted by the strike.
Video from the UIC action:
The hunger strike attempted to deliver a letter to CEO Dean Harrison of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Upon arrival they were confronted by security guards who threatened to call the police. A representative from the hospital told them if he took the letter it would be thrown in the garbage. They also asked to speak with someone who “spoke better English”.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital is occupied by The Hunger Strike For Health Care. They spent all day and night outdoors in front of the hospital, refusing to leave until they received a meeting with CEO Dean Harrison to address their demands.
A delegation tried to enter the hospital to deliver the letter from the Hunger Strikers on two separate occasions. Security guards were aggressive when the hunger strikers entered the hospital, going as far as pushing protesters and trying to prevent the media from taking photographs.
Later that day an administrator with Northwestern Memorial agreed to meet with representatives from the the hunger strike. This is the press release that came out after that meeting:
Northwestern Hospital Says Undocumented Patients Can Be Added to Transplant List
• There was a meeting with a person of the Northwestern administration. She will pass on our letter and message to the Medical Director
• She says Northwestern’s policy has never been to ask for citizenship or financial ability. She said, “they don’t have to be citizens to be on the list”
• The list of patients who have been in this fight may apply to begin the process to be on the list at the Kovler Organ Transplant Center
• These patients will have to prove that they have lived in Chicago for over a year and that it will be possible for them to pay for their medicine for life
• Northwestern’s administration will keep track and make sure these patients receive an appointment and attention. They also commit to continue communicating with the strikers daily starting today.
• They also commit to be part of the transplant medical team and to communicate with the doctor Ensell of Rush Hospital • Patients and their families will not stop the hunger strike until all their demands are met and they will return to Northwestern to protest if they do not keep their promises.
• The cost of treatment is 20-30k per year per person so we asked for help from the public you can bring donations to the Mission located at 3442 W. 26th St.
Video featuring reactions from the hunger strikers following the meeting:
After an intensive protest in front of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the hunger strikers were successful in meeting with a representative of the administration. Northwestern Memorial agreed to participate in an ongoing dialogue with the hunger strikers and other hospitals, especially Rush Medical Center and University of Illinois Medical Center, in order to address the demands of the strikers. The Hunger Strike For Health Care announced that it will be targeting Christ Advocate Hospital next with an occupation beginning on August 7th. The Hunger Strikers are calling for the hospital’s president to talk with them and meet their demands.
The Hunger strikers occupy the public space in front of Christ Advocate Medical Center and refuse to leave. While several representatives enter the hospital for a two-hour negotiating meeting, outside a small group of picketers is confronted by the police. One picketer is arrested.
After the negotiating meeting, the group decides to end the hunger strike and continue negotiations, sharing the following on the meeting:
Notes from meeting with Christ Hospital
Mrs Lisa Condon, director of Faith Outreach of Christ Advocate (need to confirm this title from Father’s email)
Tony Mooney Gardner, Manager of Public Affairs at Christ Medical Center
Chief Operating Officer of Christ Medical Center, Michael D Wilkins
The representatives of the administration agreed to:
1. Communicate with Dr David Ansel of Rush Hospital who is leading the effort to create a roundtable along with the other transplant teams from UIC ,Northwestern, Rush and Loyola; this is intended to coordinate effort and find solutions so that all undocumented and uninsured people can be evaluated for the transplant waitlists
2. Establish and maintain communication with the patients on our list to accomplish every point that we will agree: to conduct evaluations for all of them
3. There will be no requirement for legal documentation for any patient to be accepted by Christ Medical Center for evaluation to be put on the transplant waitlist
4. There be no requirement for insurance for any patient to be apply to be evaluated for the waitlist; the hospital has significant financial support for people without insurance , and that ca be used for any person who applies for medical care at Christ, especially those for evaluations for transplants.
On this date Hunger Striker Sarai Rodriguez passed away
“Sadly, our sister Sarai Rodirguez passed away. We are holding Northwestern Hospital responsible, who would not give her a transplant because she was undocumented. We denounce the immorality and cruelty of these hospitals. It is a mortal sin to put money over the lives of humans. God calls us to heal others and fight for their lives. Fighting for others is to fight for the Kingdom of Heaven. May our sister Sarai Rodirguez rest in peace. Sarai, you remain in our fight forever. ~Father Jose S. Landaverde”
The Hunger Strike For Healthcare announces that they will continue their fight with a march and occupation of North Western Memorial Hospital. This statement was released to the press:
In response to the death of Sarai Rodriguez, former Hunger Strikers, patients, loved ones, family and community supporters will gather at 3442 W 26th St on Sunday at 2:00 PM. They will march to Northwestern Memorial Hospital carrying caskets with the names of Sarai Rodriguez and other patients currently needing organ transplants who have been denied care by hospitals because they are undocumented and uninsured. The community will then hold a funeral ceremony and occupy the public space in front of Northwestern Memorial Hospital all night Sunday and all day Monday. “I ask the community to join us, because I blame Northwestern Memorial Hospital for the death of my daughter” stated Victoria Rodriguez, the mother of Sarai Rodriguez.
Depart Sunday, August 11 at 2PM: 3442 W 26th St
Arrive: Sunday, August 11 at 7PM: Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 215 E Huron
What: Funeral procession and occupation: Sunday night and Monday
Join us in supporting the Hunger Strike for Health Care campaign as it begins a new stage of the struggle. They are asking for solidarity at a funeral procession to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the one that denied care to Sarai Rodriguez. We will march to the hospital and stay there all night and all day Monday.
*Walk 26th st – Left on Kedzie- right on Ogden (Rest at Douglas Park)
*Continue to Ogden and Damen. Short vigil at John H Stroger Hospital for Sarai Rodriguez.
*Walk to Chicago Ave
*Walk to Northwestern Memorial Ave 251 E Huron
Press advisory from August 12
Sarai Rodgriguez Dies While Fighting for Health Care, Hospitals Begin Responding to Escalating Protests
Chicago, IL . After a seven mile funeral procession for Sarai Rodriguez and an overnight vigil, protesters entered the lobby of Northwestern Memorial Hospital demanding that Sarai Rodtriguez finally be heard. Sarai Rodriguez was 25 years old, and was part of a campaign of fourteen critically ill patients who were denied a place on transplant wait lists because of their inability to pay and because of a lack of legal status. The campaign, called Hunger Strike for Health Care, includes patients, loved ones and community supporters. After an 11 day hunger strike, the campaign was able to begin negotiations with area hospitals. However, these negotiations come too late for Sarai Rodriguez, who died waiting to be evaluated by a transplant specialist.
“Sarai is with us, and she has come to confront the place that sentenced her to death” stated Father Jose Landaverde, one of the organizers of the Hunger Strike for Health Care. “Her struggle and her death remind us that every day people in need of organ transplants are turned away by hospitals — not just the undocumented, but also the poor, the uninsured and the elderly are left to die” he stated. “We do not want a private meeting with a hospital representative who will give us more lies, more PR talk,” stated Oscar Balbuena, one of the organizers recently on hunger strike on behalf of his mother who needs a transplant. “They denied Sarai her humanity and her life, but she is with us today demanding to be heard.” Protesters attempted to enter the hospital with caskets marked with the name of Sarai and other transplant patients. They carried signs reading” Sarai was denied care. How Many More?” and delivered a letter to hospital administrators.
The campaign of the former Hunger Strikers continues as “Luchando pro La Vida / Fighting for Our Lives”. In response to growing public pressure and direct action, Northwestern Memorial Hospital called two transplant patients of the original fourteen and offered to evaluate them for a seat on the transplant wait list, the same way as they would any other patient. Blanca Gomes, a patient and activist, was called on Monday after the protest and offered an appointment within two weeks. In statements and open letters, participants state their campaign would not end until all fourteen patients would be put on the transplant wait lists; additionally , they demand that all patients be evaluated for organ transplants based on need and not based on ability to pay or on immigration status, and that all low-income patients have access to affordable medication after transplant surgery.
The Campaign continues negotiations with the support of Dr David Ansell from Rush Hospital, who is heading the initiative of forming a round table of local hospitals to develop a system for treating patients who are currently excluded because they are poor, uninsured or because of their immigration status.
Previous Press Statements:
8.12.13: Protesters Enter NMH with Casket Bearing the Name of Sarai Rodriguez | http://pastebin.com/Kk2Q6EL9
8.11.13: Undocumented Immigrants in Need of Transplants March Seven Miles Carrying Caskets to NMH | http://pastebin.com/q3SkzXL1
8.9.13: Friday, Hunger Striker Sarai Passes Away; Families Blame NMH | http://pastebin.com/JE2GRdi7
8.7.13: Hunger Strikers Relocate to Christ Advocate Medical Center | http://pastebin.com/Vm6DcUCF
8.8.13: Hunger Strikers Update on Negotiations with Hospitals | http://pastebin.com/H1gAaJ9D
8.5.13: Northwestern Memorial Hospital Says Undocumented Patients Can Be Added to Transplant List | http://pastebin.com/HvB6hh7P