After two retired SEIU Healthcare PA members blew the whistle on the Corbett Administration’s Department of Health and its policy of silencing public healthcare workers on the issue of fracking, hundreds of healthcare professionals across the state are now standing up to demand that action be taken and that the administration be investigated for failing to put public health before gas industry concerns.
According to the former state nurses, community health workers were told not to return calls from residents with health concerns related to fracking or the gas industry.
“There was a list of buzzwords we had gotten,” former state nurse Tammi Stuck told NPR. “There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination. There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them.”
Health workers were instructed to simply take down contact info and refer them to a supervisor. There was never any indication that these citizens were called back.
Julie Becker, a professor at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, recently spoke at the Capitol on behalf of over 400 nurses, doctors, and other health professionals who have issued a statement calling for action on the issue.
“The role of the Pennsylvania Department of Health is to ‘prevent injury and disease,’ and to ‘lead the development of sound health policy and planning.’ Yet when it comes to fracking, the DOH has done little to prevent exposure or lead policy development,” said Becker, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
While the DOH scrambles to address the issue, we continue to attack the root cause of the problem — a governor and an administration that cares more for the concerns of big business and Gov. Corbett’s corporate cronies than for the health and well-being of hard working Pennsylvanians.
What’s more, Pennsylvania already had a system in place for tracking public health risks, crisis and disease — our state health centers. Those are the same health centers that Corbett tried to close last year, a move that would put 73 nurses out of work and leave many communities without access to state health services. We sued the Corbett Administration and took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court where we won an injunction against the closings.
Years of bad decisions, cuts to education and services, attacks on our civil rights, program mismanagement, and money misspent on friends of the administration have left Pennsylvania crying out for a new beginning, a fresh start. That is why we are making sure that every citizen who is eligible is registered to vote this election season and that they know there is a candidate who can offer us that fresh start — Tom Wolf.