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MichUHCAN Newsletter for May, 2000

Detroiters Organize for Community's Care

Residents of Detroit's east side are not sitting still after the closure of Mercy Hospital. Hundreds attended a community meeting in February to discuss the March 1 closing.

Since then, a working committee has been meeting and planning strategy to pressure the parent company, Mercy Health Services, the largest hospital company in Michigan.

The committee includes former patients and health care workers at Mercy, and block-club leaders and clergy from the area. They're backed by the staff at Warren-Conner Development Coalition, a long-time community organization in the area.

On March 28, committee members bussed supporters to St. Mary Hospital in Livonia. The Mercy system bought St. Mary in January, just as they were closing down Detroit's Mercy Hospital. Detroit residents wanted to tell suburbanites, "We need health care, too!"

Demonstrators that day got a chance to talk with Mercy officials, who were mostly interested in how the physical campus of the now-closed Mercy should be used. The system has agreed to put some money into operating a clinic there. East-side residents are not convinced that will be enough. The committee is discussing future actions, which could include legal action and/or a demonstration at Mercy Health Services' Farmington Hills headquarters.

For more information contact Tanya Allen or Rhonda Anderson at Warren-Conner Development Coalition (313-571-2800).

News Bits

In April, Maine state legislators passed a first-of-its-kind law to cap drug prices. Under the new law, if drug companies do not voluntarily bring prices down by October, 2001, then a pricing board can require that drugs sold in Maine cost no more than in Canada.

The law will probably be challenged in court as a restriction on trade. But backers in Maine say the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution allows states to protect citizens' basic health and safety.

On April 11, MichUHCAN's Ed Pintzuk spoke to the Oakland County Democrats as part of a panel on health care. There was a range of views expressed, says Ed. "The audience was small but the drama was high." Thanks to MichUHCAN members who attended to help get our message out.

The Hunter Group departed Detroit Medical Center March 31, after 16 months of consulting with management of that urban hospital system. The consultants' main legacy: 3,500 job cuts last year-about 20% of the work force-plus another 1,200 planned for this year.

The DMC has not made public how much they paid the Hunter Group. But other hospital systems have paid over $3 million for similar "services."

Detroit Chapter Mtg:

Thurs May 4 m 7:30 pm.; with: Dr. Joseph Weiss, Detroit Medical Society

Place: First United Methodist Church of Berkley 12 Mile Road, two blocks west of Coolidge; park in the lot on the west side, enter from Kipling, east side

Bus Wars: Which Way to Better Health Care??

A hand-full of Congressional representatives have sponsored bus trips to Canada for seniors to buy affordable prescription drugs. Now the pharmaceutical industry claims there are busloads of Canadian seniors coming to the U.S. for care!

Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been a vocal critic of the drug companies. He says prices are 70% - 90% lower in Canada for many drugs; that's because the Canadian Medicare system pays for a substantial portion of prescriptions, and can negotiate lower prices.

Sanders has introduced a bill (HR 1885/S 1191) that would give U.S. seniors access to drugs at the same prices charged abroad. Of the dozens of current co-sponsors, six are from Michigan: David Bonior (10th), John Conyers (14th), Peter Hoekstra (2nd), Carolyn Kilpatrick (15th), Lynn Rivers (13th), and Senator Carl Levin.

The drug companies, through their front group "Citizens for Better Medicare," say such legislation would curtail research and development of new treatments. But Sanders' web site points out that "profits [of 18%] greatly exceed research costs at the top ten U.S. drug companies."

For an update on busses to Canada, see Sanders' web site: . To read the pharmaceutical industry's tall tales about Canadians' "rationed health care services that keep government costs down," see .

April Events

MichUHCAN members and supporters gathered at two successful events in April. A forum on April 8 included speakers from Physicians for a National Health Program and from UHCAN for a serious discussion of the U2K campaign. And the Detroit chapter raised some much-needed cash through a benefit performance at Detroit Repertory Theater the next day.

Join the Fun!

Fundraiser for MichUHCAN

Second City Comedy Club
Sunday May 21 * 8pm
tickets $15
for tickets or information: David Green (248-855-3169)