Dear editor,

As a healthcare worker, the coronavirus crisis has got me scared and thinking.

I am scared for my very dear friend. She makes rounds in a NYC hospital, a city where one person is dying every 10 minutes from the virus.

I see posts about my fellow nurses contracting COVID-19 and dying from it . They are decimated to see their patients suffer from  lack of equipment. Their cries to the government for more protective gear and ventilators are responded to with empty promises while the death toll rises exponentially.

My own residents in the nursing homes, along with their families, are suffering from lack of connection with each other, despite the window visits and occasional Skyping. How can an already compromised individual resist an aggressive infection while stressing over feelings of loss, fear and abandonment?

A husband asked me today what we could do to keep his demented wife of almost 60 years from forgetting him in his absence!

Family members in particular, fully aware of the situation with their parents,  are becoming exceedingly apprehensive about the security of their own livelihoods as the economy tanks. I was told of one who had their surgery cancelled because of the virus, leaving him physically unable to return to his job. Millions are now sacked and lack any emergency funds.

Then I think, this shouldn’t be happening in the richest country on earth.

But I see what has happened. I have lived through the transformation of healthcare over my 30-plus year career.

Care of human beings has been replaced by care of the bottom line while holistic approaches have been replaced by the manufacturing mantra of efficiency and productivity.

The financial strategy of “Lean and Green” has resulted in closures of hospitals, barebone staffing levels, and a modicum of lifesaving interventions, such as ventilators and antiviral vaccinations. It’s impossible for a skeleton to strike down a bear.

Our country spends twice as much on healthcare than any developed nation, yet its outcomes are inferior to theirs’.

Insurance now governs care decisions over the expertise of healthcare providers. Where I work, therapies and treatments are cut off too soon based on the verdict of a far-off panel of profit-minded executives. Failure in therapy spells doom for any hopes of returning home.

It breaks my heart to see my older residents lose all of their lifelong savings so they can be forced out of their home and into an institution for the remainder of their lives. The system has bankrupted them and any guarantee of a high quality of life vanishes.

At the dear cost of treasure, human lives and livelihoods this situation cannot continue.

Senator Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who believes the business of healthcare should be about meeting people’s needs, not those of greedy investors and CEOs.

His Medicare For All comprehensive health plan covers every American all the time, employed or not. It eliminates copays, premiums and out-of-pocket expenses while providing an allowance for small businesses.

Medicare For All will be funded by a progressive tax, having the wealthiest pay the most, while saving thousands for the average U.S. worker.

Yale and other prestigious organizations state Medicare for All will save up to $450 billion and 70,000 lives annually, while all other proposed models, including those offering a public option, will continue to rise in cost while leaving millions uncovered and inadequately cared for.

I think a vote for Medicare For All offers the best guarantee that we are all afforded the support we need to improve our general health in the long run while providing our front-line workers the weapons they need to thwart the sudden strike of a formidable foe.

Bruce Grau of Wausau, gerontological nurse practitioner and palliative care provider

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