Activists put the squeeze on Gov. Pritzker to keep Mercy Hospital open  

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CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION Vice President Stacy Davis-Gates (pictured above at the microphone) and faith leaders join Chicago Health Equity Coalition in calling on Governor Pritzker to facilitate the sale of Mercy Hospital to a reputable suitor during a press conference in front of Mercy Hospital on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.

Multi-racial coalition demand meeting with Governor

By Chinta Strausberg

A coalition of healthcare workers, elected officials and civil rights activists on Tuesday, November 24 called on Governor J. B. Pritzker to use his political might to save Mercy Hospital, which is the safety net for Black and brown people on the South Side.

Standing in front of Mercy Hospital at 26th and Calumet, the multiracial coalition held up blue and white signs saying, “Save Mercy Hospital.”

Leading the coalition was Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey 4 Justice Alliance; Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.; Rep. Lamont Robinson (D-5th); Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor (20th); Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th), Father Larry Dowling, St. Agatha Catholic Church; Stacy Davis-Gates, vice president, Chicago Teachers Union; Reverend Robin Hood, lead organizer for the Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere; Joyce Ball, a registered nurse at Provident Hospital.

To the frontline workers and parents, Brown said, “Don’t lose hope. My spirit ain’t broke. Don’t let these people tell you this is over. It’s far from over.”

Concerned about the lack of health care for the “midtown,” Reverend Jackson told reporters, “If the City of Chicago had designated Mercy Hospital as its COVID-19 facility rather than spending nearly $70 million to convert the McCormick Place into an emergency coronavirus facility that serviced only 38 patients, we could have prevented the scheduled closing of Mercy.

“Health care must be accessible and affordable,” said Reverend Jackson. “When trauma comes, whether you are in a wreck or shot, the first hour is called the ‘golden hour.’ Accessibility is important for us. We can’t close hospitals in a pandemic. Mercy Hospital can be a COVID-19 outpost.”

Father Dowling read a letter to Governor Pritzker saying, “As community organizations, labor unions, faith leaders and medical professionals, we have come together to form the Chicago Health Equity Coalition to address deep racial and economic disparities in access to quality health care in the city of Chicago.

“We vehemently oppose the proposed closure of Mercy Hospital and implore you to intervene and stop this action, which would be a catastrophic loss to the South Side of Chicago at any time, but is unconscionable during a global pandemic and a growing awareness and active opposition to systemic racism,” Father Dowling said.

Saying racism can be described as “institutionalized lovelessness for Blacks and people of color,” Dowling said, “Sadly, the institutions most Americans take for granted: schools, grocery stores, housing and hospitals, Black and brown communities must continue to fight and fight to preserve.

“For an already marginalized community dealing with the stress of COVID-19, to now be forced to wonder whether they will have access to a welcoming and quality hospital in their community is institutionalized lovelessness.”

To the governor, Father Dowling said, “If Black Lives really matter to you, then we ask you to take the lead in this moment with our coalition and others behind you, and we are willing to do our part in preserving Mercy Hospital for this and future generations on the South Side.

“Black Lives Matter is not about slogans and statues, but having zero-tolerance for the structural and institutional racism that has diminished and snuffed out the lives of so many Black and brown people that it is impossible to count,” Father Dowling said. “As taxpayers, investing in our basic quality of life institutions equity is a reasonable return on our investment.”

Ball in referring to Provident Hospital said, “They are shutting our inpatient beds down. We went from a 27-unit bed, and they have now reduced it to 10, and they are talking about reducing it to 7,” she said referring to the hospital.

“They are talking about reducing our emergency to a standby emergency where it is one nurse and one doctor on call. So, the doctor does not have to be present, but on call. That is what they are trying to do to our emergency room. Shame on them,” Ball said.

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