Thursday, October 7, 2010

To Speaker Quinn: Support the Paid Sick Time Act!

So often, in my office, someone will come in clearly having waited to come see me. I used to wonder why people waited so long- why did they walk around in debilitating pain until they couldn't walk, why did they let their child stay sick and infect everyone else in the household, etc etc. It's not that people don't know better, or that they don't want to. It's often that they can't afford to. And not being able to get off work is frequently the reason. Either out of concern that they may get fired, or because they can't afford not to get paid. And of course, the jobs that are least likely to provide paid sick time are also the ones that pay the least, leaving hard working people- single mothers, manual laborers, young adults- with hard choices to make. Is it going to be rent or going to the doctors this month? No one should ever have to make that choice.

So a coalition of physician advocacy organizations decided to visit City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office today. Dr. Bill Jordan and I from NPA-New York joined with members of CIR (including our ring leader, Tim Foley) and Doctors for America. We learned that although the Council had heard from a few health care professionals, it seemed that the physician voice had been missing. And that the business interests had been the overwhelming lobby in their office. It was important for us to show them how this affected real people, and how the health care field was accomodating this reality.

We told them stories of our patients. The first one that came to my mind was during my second job as a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner. This young woman had come in late on a Friday night after having been sexually assaulted- on Wednesday. Often people come several days after the assault because of fear and shame, but that wasn't the case with her. She came 2 days later because she had to work, as she was the main breadwinner in the house, since she was taking care of her bed-bound mother and siblings. Besides not having time to be able to process this traumatic event until a few days later, she was also too late to get medicines to reduce her chances of contracting HIV, and the morning after pill I gave her was much less effective 2 days later. No one, no one, should have to go through this- not the assault, and not the 2 days of waiting.

Others told stories of people resorting to using the Emergency Room for their care, because they couldn't take time off during the day. We spoke about how many of our clinics had shifted their hours to a later time, as well as on weekends, to accomodate for this. We reminded them that contagious illnesses know no bounds. We recounted the conversations we've had with our patients trying to convince them that they need to take time of work because they are sick and need rest or to not transmit their illness to others- often falling on deaf ears because that person cannot afford the time.

We really hope that Speaker Quinn and her colleagues in the City Council hear our voices, and pass the Paid Sick Time Act.

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