National Nurses United

California Nurse magazine January-February 2006

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Editor Lucia Hwang Executive Editor Rose Ann DeMoro Graphic Design and Production Jonathan Wieder Communications Director Charles Idelson Contributors Hedy Dumpel, RN, JD California Nurse January/February 2006 Volume 102/1 (ISSN 0008-1310) is published by the California Nurses Association, 2000 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA. 94612-2908. It provides news of the Association's activities and reports on developments of concern to all registered nurses in the state. It also carries general coverage and commentary on matters of nursing practice, community health, and healthcare policy. It is published ten times a year with combined issues in the summer and winter. Periodicals postage paid at Oakland, California. Postmaster send address changes to California Nurse, 2000 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA. 94612-2908. To send a media release or announcement: Phone: 510-273-2200 Ext. 249 Fax: 510-663-0629 California Nurse is carried on the CNA Website: For permission to reprint articles write to Editorial Office. To subscribe: Send $40 ($45 foreign) to Subscription Department. Letter from the President President's Note We've got a busy year ahead of us, but I'm starting off 2006 on a decidedly more upbeat note. At this time last year, we were on the defensive, still fight- ing off Gov. Schwarzenegger's attack on the ratios. This year, we're going on the offensive, parlaying our big wins on the special election and ratio fights into proposals that will hopefully secure access to healthcare for all Californians and purge all money out of state politics so that our elected lead- ers can do what is right, not what it takes to get reelected. The time is ripe for RNs to lead the movement for a universal, single-payer healthcare system with a quality standard of care for all. Neither the state nor country was ready before, but we think the time has finally come. And we'll get there faster with RNs leading the way. Everywhere you look, the argument for a real national healthcare system grows stronger and stronger. The numbers of uninsured keep mushrooming. Bankruptcies due to unpaid medical bills keep climbing. Emergency rooms are bursting at the seams, even as hospitals complain they're money losers and move to shut them down. For many Americans, the medical aftermath of Hurricane Katrina illus- trated the breakdown of our system as nothing else ever could. Here were hundreds of thousands of people with not only emergency medical problems, but serious, pre-existing chronic conditions, who needed treatment, and we were stuck with a healthcare infrastructure incapable and unwilling to pro- vide it. Jobless, homeless, and even familyless—these were Americans who had been stripped of everything except their humanity. All the pretenses we usually use to justify why some people get healthcare and others don't were, literally, washed away. That's why it was that much more disgusting to watch Congress squabbling over whether the storm refugees qualified for Medicaid or state insurance or other benefits. In our vision of a single-payer system, they all deserved healthcare services. As do the rest of us. Period. The breakdown was evident in other areas, too. Our cover story this issue examines what happened with the deployment of medical volunteers after Katrina, and how both the American Red Cross and government fell down on the job. Actually, the Red Cross contends that it's not their job at all, and the government was in too much disarray to know they weren't measuring up. The task of responding to the medical disaster fell too much on the shoul- ders of volunteer groups like CNA and others that established rogue clinics around the Gulf. But it wasn't efficient or sufficient. Will we be ready next time? Will nurses, doctors, and other medical volunteers be organized enough to help us when the Big One finally strikes California? Deborah Burger, RN CNA President

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