This video from the USA is the trailer of Michael Moore‘s SiCKO documentary film.
Today [19 February 2011], there was a meeting of over 150 people in a packed hall in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
They were mainly workers in health care and related sectors. The aim of the meeting was to strengthen opposition to privatization policies in those sectors by Dutch followers of Milton Friedman and similar pro-capitalist ideologists. A slide on the stage said “The market [the “free market” of pro-capitalist ideologists] destroys everything you love and more” (a wordplay on a Dutch slogan against alcoholism).
Ms Agnes Kant presided over the meeting. She used to be the leader of the Dutch Socialist Party. However, she resigned after the party´s local election results were not good (contrary to what most other politicians do in similar circumstances, saying the election results were not really that bad blah blah blah, or that others, not those party leaders, were to blame blah blah blah.)
At the meeting were various other prominent Socialist party members. But also a surgeon who had been a member of the Christian Democrat CDA party. However, he had resigned when that party a few months ago decided to join a minority government based on an agreement with the xenophobic PVV party of Geert Wilders. The surgeon refered to Wilders not by name, but as “Voldemort“, the deadly villain in the Harry Potter novels. According to the surgeon, the privatization had many bad consequences in his profession. Even his colleagues, voting for the VVD, the other party in the Rightist coalition government, did not like that.
After Agnes Kant’s opening speech, there was a speech by Alan Ralston. Born in Scotland, he is now a psychiatrist in Castricum in the Netherlands. Contrary to what “free market” advocates want you to believe, he said, those “free market” policies bring not less, but more bureaucracy. Not cheaper, but more expensive administration. in the United States, where “free market” ideology is strongest in health care, health care costs rise faster than in any other country.
Patients, Dr Ralston said, cannot be equated to consumers of goods. Privatization means an enormous increase in the power of big insurance corporations, which care about their profits, not about health. These corporations are “cherry picking”, meaning that health care for people who are not rich and/or are not very easy to cure, is in danger.
The power of those corporations is a threat to the human right of privacy. Doctors are pressured to divulge to the corporations which psychic diseases their patients have. In this way, doctors are pressured to break their oath of secrecy about that.
Dr Ralston concluded his speech with a quote from the novel 1984 by George Orwell: “If there is hope, it lies with the proles”. That is, Ralston said, with you and me.
After the big meeting, there were various smaller meetings of discussion groups on specific themes.
I attended the meeting about the DBC finance system, recently introduced in Dutch mental health care. It was introduced to enable “free market” policies. Foreign models for this system were from Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and from Australia. However, in Australia that system led to total failure, and hospitals had to be nationalized as an emergency measure. Those DBC’s caused 100 million euro extra costs in Dutch health care; much of that disappeared into the pockets of private consultancy firms.
What problems, Alan Ralston asked, do you have at work? A woman psychologist from the eastern Netherlands said: apathy among many colleagues. Some of them make more money under the new system. Other colleagues feel intimidated by management and insurance corporations, so they dare not speak out against privatization policies.
The Rightist VVD party now has much power in health care. Hans Wiegel, ex VVD leader, now is chairman of the insurance bosses’ organization, where he meets many other VVD fat cats. In Parliament, including its health committee, there are few (ex-)health care professionals.
Meanwhile, a suicidal person who had cut his wrists was not admitted to a mental health institution, as there was no accommodation because of “free market” policies.
Then, our meeting considered the question: What should we do to change this bad situation? Henk van Gerwen, Socialist Party MP, said: Look at Egypt. Masses of people there started a movement to change things, even though they faced risks of being killed by the dictatorship (in at least one of the other discussion groups, Egypt was mentioned as well).
Alan proposed a movement of both health care workers and patients. Also, more activity on the Internet, on Twitter and LinkedIn (it has already started today).
I gave a proposal for solidarity with Bahrain health workers, brutally attacked by police, to Henk van Gerwen, Socialist Party MP and doctor. He promised the SP parliamentary caucus would deal with it.
After the discussion groups and lunch came a plenary meeting again, with reports from the discussion group meetings.
Annelies Heij from Rotterdam works for care for senior citizens. She reported that bosses are cutting back on workers’ wages and workers’ education.
A trade union activist from Haarlem told about the senior citizens’ care sector as well. Bosses there, who make over 200,000 euro a year, plan to lower low paid workers’ wages with 20%, and to sack workers who don’t accept that.
A health care worker from Uden in the southern Netherlands told that more and more health care workers are getting sick.
On 12 May, on the Plein, the square near the Dutch Parliament, in The Hague, there will be a health care workers demonstration.