CONFESSIONS OF A (ANTI-IMPERIALIST, TRANSNATIONAL FEMINIST, HEALTHCARE UNION ORGANIZER) PATIENT IN THE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

IMG_1732For the last month and a half I’ve been examined, poked, and tested by an ER doc, urgent care docs, my primary care doc, an ENT doc, and an infectious disease team (don’t worry I don’t have anything contagious). I’ve endured excruciating (in every sense of the word) pain from head to toe with many, “we’re not sure,” and “it could be this”-es in between. I lost 6 pounds in one day, I lost my hearing in my right ear, I had 104 degree fevers twice, and now can barely walk let alone use the restroom. I’ve been on 11 different medications (I won’t even go into the side effects) – two of which I had to abruptly stop because my docs didn’t/couldn’t communicate and because one was the wrong decision. This has taken a toll on my emotional/mental well-being, my relationships, and my ability to work during a critical campaign time.

One solution continues to lead into another agonizing problem.

As a labor organizer for a healthcare union, I understand the gaps in the system from the fact that medical records are not streamlined because electronic systems do not have the capability to communicate across sites (oftentimes because institutions are not willing to pay for it), to the reason why my care hasn’t been comprehensive and I have had to see several specialists. I understand why I’ve had to advocate for myself as a patient and maintain a running list of symptoms, dates, diagnoses (failed and not), and meds, because the doctor may be so tired, so overworked, that she may miss something in your file. I know the life of a healthcare worker and the power dynamics/structures that influence/suppress their ability to provide the kind of care they want to.

As an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist, I understand why it is sometimes hard to find a doctor who is a woman because they get paid $17k less than their male counterparts doing the exact same work and with the same debt. I understand how it can be difficult to share your entire medical/sexual history to a white male doctor with poor bedside manners.

I know why an entire team of American infectious disease specialists at a top rate hospital know nothing about a disease you were exposed to in another country, that was actually caused by, and could be traced back to, oppressive U.S. foreign policies that allowed corporations to operate in that area with no regard to the workers/community’s health, let alone the environment/land.

I know why I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in copayments and prescriptions, the highest being $30 for a tiny bottle of ear drops prescribed by an urgent care doc, which the ENT specialist then said to never use because it would cause more damage. Through this lens I understand why these medications are expensive and may only be temporary cures – because they’re created by multi-national corporations in the pharmaceutical industry that are run by capitalists (not scientists), whose priority is to maximize profits. They control who is allowed to be cured (the rich, those who can afford the medication) and who will suffer (the poor, working class, who cannot afford the medication). They also prey on doctors, particularly resident physicians who are financially struggling, and bribe them into prescribing their brand with free trips to the Keys, stock options and more.

Even with my privilege – having a Cadillac healthcare plan, being fluent in english, being a citizen, knowing the inner workings of a hospital, having a car to drive from one place to the next, understanding how and why certain drugs are prescribed over others, being able to afford copayments and meds, knowing what questions to ask, etc., I still struggle in navigating our healthcare system. I think of those who are homeless/transient, who are undocumented, whose primary language is not English, who cannot afford copayments/medication, who do not have consistent transportation, who do not have time to see a doctor because she is busy caring for others, etc.

Our healthcare system is a big business and therefore functions like one – exploited and exhausted workers, disorganized systems (when it comes to improving patient care, not when it comes to billing of course), lack of women leadership, unequal care based on class/race, high prices, and the list goes on.

But, for centuries women healers have been able to cure illnesses and ailments without these medical institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. They have been able to treat people with herbs and home remedies that are not costly and are actually more effective. They take into account the entire person and their environment, not just isolated diseases. They care for the person and their community. They understand how sickness is oftentimes the physical result of a patriarchal/racist/capitalist society.

As an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist, healthcare labor organizer, and a suffering patient trying to navigate a broken health care system, this experience is influencing me to look into homeopathic remedies and treatment by women healers. I’ll be the first to admit that I have always been willing to take medications without hesitation, so long as it was the quickest solution so that I could continue my day organizing with the union or Affirm Gabnet, but I am now rethinking this.
My experience has also further fueled my activism. We can unionize, we can hire patient advocates, we can create literature in different languages, we can fight for equal access and free/affordable care, but until imperialism and patriarchy is destroyed, our healthcare delivery system will only continue to function the way it has – for profit over people.

#getorganized #healthcareforall #endpatriarchy #smashimperialism

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Ivy Quicho is the National Organizing Director for AF3IRM, a member of the Los Angeles chapter, and a national organizing director for a healthcare union.

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