Activists Hold Public Forum on Grady Hospital (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — The Grady Coalition hosted “The People’s Forum” on Tuesday, September 04, 2007, to rally concerned citizens and Grady Health System employees against plans to privatize the system and to raise awareness of the need for additional funding.
Rev. Timothy McDonald, of First Iconium Baptist Church and a member of the Grady Coalition, said The People’s Forum was in response to an August 22, 2007, public hearing held by the Fulton County Commission he called a “farce nobody knew about.”
Dozens of elected officials, Grady employees, and ordinary citizens jammed the Steiner Auditorium at Grady to discuss, often passionately, problems facing the troubled health system as well as solutions.
“Who’s going to take care of the poor if we’re gone?” Josephine Evans, a registered Grady nurse, asked the crowd. “The state and other counties need to pay their share.”
Josephine Evans was one of eight panelists who outlined problems facing Grady, made arguments against privatization, and suggested solutions.
“The myth is the private sector can feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish,” Charlie Flemming, President of the Atlanta/North Georgia Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and panelist, said. “That’s a bunch of balogna.”
The Greater Grady Task Force–convened by state elected officials–released a report on July 13, 2007, as previously reported in Atlanta Progressive News, which recommended, among other things, that management of Grady be taken out of the hands of the public Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority and put in the hands of a private, nonprofit corporation.
Those in attendance Tuesday argue putting public tax dollars in the hands of a private corporation will make it harder to account for how that money is spent. They argue a lack of funding, and not mismanagement, is the primary problem.
Terence Courtney of Atlanta Jobs with Justice and panelist suggested several solutions, including passing laws mandating the State and other counties which reap Grady’s benefits pay their fair share, and creating a regional management board with proportional representation.
“We must help those most affected organize and overcome these obstacles,” he said. “This is going to be hard [but] we must fight this.”
After panelists finished their presentations, audience members formed long lines to speak their minds. Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves and other elected officials listened while dozens delivered brief, fiery remarks.
“If this hospital is privatized, it will change its whole character,” John Evans, of Operation LEAD and former Dekalb County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President, said. “This is serious business. We are going to have to get some people unelected.”
Virginia Ramsey Williams, who worked at Grady for 39 years, accused politicians talking about privatizing the system of trying to score “brownie points.”
“How do you know when politicians are lying?” Jeremiah Jackson asked. “When their lips are moving. Make sure Governor Perdue and others who don’t support Grady never receive another vote.”
Many at The People’s Forum plan to attend the regular Fulton County Commission meeting on Wednesday, September 05, 2007, in order to make their presence felt and to continue putting pressure on elected officials.
Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell told Atlanta Progressive News previously the Commission might consider again appropriating emergency funds and, for the first time, the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority’s $125 million proposal which would stabilize the system for the next year.
“We have the best politicians money can buy,” Gloria Tatum, a local peace activist who has a son currently receiving medical care at Grady, said. “They need to spend the money on people who are dying.”
“Grady has always been for the people and you can never take that away,” Donna Gilbert said.
CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the Forum was hosted by the New Grady Coalition and that Rev. McDonald was a member of the New Grady Coalition. In fact, the Forum was hosted by the [original] Grady Coalition, which recently reconvened to address the current crisis. The New Grady Coalition is a separate, complementary group.
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Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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