The 99 Percent Comes to St. Vincent’s
The group Healthcare-NOW, which supports the establishment of a non-profit, single-payer health care system, organized the march in protest of both WellPoint, a publicly-traded health insurance company with offices near Zuccotti Park, and WellCare, the for-profit company that provides Medicare and Medicaid plans. Healthcare-NOW cited the ongoing supercommittee negotiations in Washington, which may result in cuts to health care programs as a reason to march.
Protesters hoped that the march would bring publicity to the legacy of the former St. Vincent’s, which closed in April 2010 after filing for bankruptcy, and is expected to become the site of a condominium complex. There are currently no hospitals on Manhattan’s West Side located south of 57th Street.
“For 160 years, this was a nonprofit hospital,” said Yetta Kurland, civil rights attorney and head of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital. “But it has since become a pure example of corporate greed and privatization, and that typifies the concerns that the Occupy Wall Street people are talking about.”
Many New Yorkers at the march recalled the hospital’s role during the attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Participants argued that, as doctors and nurses ran out the hospital’s doors and lined gurneys up along Seventh Avenue on the morning of the attacks – waiting for the fleet of ambulances to return from the towers with injured men and women – St. Vincent’s Hospital asserted its place in the city’s landscape.
“[On September 11] our job was to speak with victims and families and get them back to feeling healthy and feeling safe,” said Jane Korczyski, a retired nurse who spent 28 years working at the hospital. “Today, the nearest hospitals are so far away, caring people have lost their jobs, and the people who need to get healthy aren’t getting help. Where is the safety net?”
“What is uniting all of us here is the simple truth that these major corporations, both in and out of health care, are ripping out resources that are finite,” said Constantine Harrison, a lifelong New Yorker and longtime civil rights activist. “I would love to see this event here at St. Vincent’s serve as a catalyst that says we are fed up with the health care system. Because if these same capitalist parasites could control the magnetic fields, you’d be charged for sunlight.”