Broadsided Jackson needs our help

03/20/2010 12:03 PM

03/20/2010 12:12 PM

Given the current prognosis for Jackson Health System, it is clear that we have skewed priorities in finding the right economic model to meet the needs of our community's health.

Jackson has been broadsided. It is on a dark and dirty road, left to die like a raccoon seeking refuge on an embankment in the Everglades.

Who is going to claim to be the "driver'' of the careening ambulance in this hit-and-run mystery? Or has it been the work of a serial malfeasance of past managerial and political administrations?

The current debate over healthcare reform highlights, in part, the battle over individual choice versus the role of government. Everyone wants good health, but more often than not those who can afford insurance care more about their own health than those without. Despite our philanthropic tendencies as a nation, we are a selfish nation when it comes to our personal health versus that of the entire community.

Jackson suffers the acute injuries of a system set up for failure. It is underfunded and under-supported. The greater Miami community does not care about the institution's health, not only because many people have no vested interest in its sustainability, but because many seek care for themselves elsewhere.

In addition, it is also evident that some of the primary stakeholders of Jackson (such as the University of Miami and the unions) do not appear to be on the same strategic page.

Again, each stakeholder is feeding off the public largess to ensure the survival of the fittest and their own self-preservation. Who is the true driver of this careening ambulance?

Who is the true driver of this careening ambulance?

I have a soft spot for the extraordinary talent at Jackson. It has provided world-class care to my family in the form of a successful kidney transplant, ulcer remedies and treatment for breast cancer.

Likewise, a significant majority of the staff and their heritage hail from around the globe, from countries like my native Jamaica, the Philippines, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba and Nigeria, among other nations. Jackson employs the spectrum of our community.

Jackson does not turn its back on humanity. Whether for good or bad, documented or undocumented, Jackson is there to treat you. We pay the price for having an institution of public health.

As a community, we have to decide how we wish to value our "public'' health. What is our priority?

Does your neighbor across the street or across town deserve to breathe without acute congestion, to receive trauma care or to live without fear of cancer in her body? Or are we so numb that we would rather watch each other lay injured on the embankment?

Jackson is sick, and everyone knows it. We cannot continue to draw blood from this institutional patient without much-needed transfusions of money. All stakeholders must account for how much blood they are taking in exchange for how much is being replaced.

There is a price for good (bad) health. If you smoke, you know the risks. If you eat more grains and greens, you know the benefits.

We cannot pretend that Jackson will live for our public's good on its current diet. We know exactly what we put in and take out of Jackson, and the institution's health reflects our priorities as a nation and a local community.

No one wants to claim that they were driving the careening ambulance that broadsided Jackson on this unfortunate night, but as a community we must face our obligations, get our priorities straight and save this public institution.

As a community, I assume we have a functioning heart to do what is right.

Marlon Hill is an attorney with delancyhill, P.A. and a commentator on Caribbean Riddims, WZAB 880AM, Saturdays, 4 p.m.

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