As our organization expands to include workers from different sectors of industry, we are forced to understand and clarify the terrain in which we are organizing in. Below we are posting a new series that will focus on the health care industry and prospects for communist intervention in the Bay Area. Through an analysis of our local region, we wish to draw out the broader implications for organizing the rapidly expanding health care industry. We encourage our readers to comment on the questions raised so as to deepen our understanding of the complexities of workplace organizing in health care!
Non-profit health care is a huge industry. It meets at the junction of the “non-profit industrial complex” and the “health care industrial complex,” but forms a unique hybrid.
To give some scope to this industry, in California, non-profit hospitals account for 61% of total patient days excluding state psychiatric hospitals. Profits are just as large. In 2010 alone, the top two California chains, Kaiser and Sutter Health, together made net income of $2.18 billion.
This led us to two questions: How do nonprofits make profit, and where do the profits go once they’re made?
How does a “non-profit” hospital make profits?
A huge amount of non-profit hospitals’ profits come from state subsidies and benefits. These benefits include being exempt from state and federal income taxes on profits, property taxes, and almost all sales taxes. In return, these hospitals are supposed to offer charity care to those can’t afford it. It’d be reasonable to think that the tax credits given and the charity care returned should balance out so that these institutions are actually non-profiting. The joke of an exchange that exists in reality is shown in the following chart, courtesy of the National Nurses United research group the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy.
A striking public health worker at a demonstration outside the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi (REUTERS)
On September 12th of this year, 3,000 Kenyan public doctors and health workers voted to strike in solidarity with medical students demanding to be paid for their volunteer hospital work. This is the second time in one year health workers have staged a strike. On Friday the health workers called off the strike, with some initial indications that it’s a serious victory for the Kenyan working class, health workers and consumers both. (We’re also hesitant to crow victory too quickly in these complex situations.)
After talks with the union officials, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o announced that he had revoked all disciplinary measures that the government had taken on the medics for taking part in the strike.
At a joint press conference with union officials at Afya House on Thursday evening, Nyong’o said the government would also release the salaries that had been withheld from the striking doctors.
The meeting agreed to set up a committee that would address the doctors’ grievances, which included demands for fastracking of a return-to-work formula that had been signed to end a similar strike late last year.
Kenya is a country in which politicians make about $130,000 a year, while doctors receive a $36,000 a year salary that doesn’t even let them visit private clinics. Health workers in Kenya struggle to meet the needs of their poor and working-class patients with a dire lack of basic resources like drugs and surgery tools. In the meantime, Kenyan legislators hop on flights to America or Europe to kick it with their imperialist puppet masters and get their surgeries and check ups.
Posted in Resistance News
Tagged Africa, AIDS, class struggle, doctors, education, healthcare workers, imperialism, internationalism, Kenya, labor, nurses, strikes, Unions, workers