The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. marked his 73rd birthday Wednesday by criticizing the medical care of the first person to die of the Ebola virus in the U.S., contending he initially got substandard care due to his lack of health insurance.
Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, died in Dallas Wednesday, a day after Jackson had been there to meet with Duncan’s family and offer assistance, Jackson told students during an assembly at Farragut Career Academy in Chicago.
“Because he got late treatment, this morning he died,” Jackson said.
He pointed out that whites, who have been treated for the virus in the U.S., were saved from death.
“People who are poor and don’t have heath insurance must have the same rights as everybody else.”
He told the students he planned to travel back to Dallas to assist the Duncan family.
Jackson initially traveled there this week after Duncan’s relatives contacted him, he said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview after the assembly.
“They didn’t think he was getting the medical care that he needed,” Jackson said.
Duncan, a Liberia national, arrived in Dallas Sept. 20 from Liberia and fell ill a few days later. He was sent home after an initial visit to the emergency room of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. He was taken back to the hospital Sept. 28, and had been kept in isolation ever since.
“I think once they began to treat him, [his medical care] was very well, but it was apparently too late,” Jackson said. “When he first went to the hospital, they turned him away. He had the fever, the vomiting and no insurance and [was of] African descent. He was sent back into the world with Ebola. He came back two days later and by that time he was apparently so sick he was not able to recover.”
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price has criticized the hospital. In an interview with the Washington Post this week, he labeled the health care provider “a boutique hospital” in a neighborhood with many immigrant residents.
“If you don’t have insurance, you’re not going to get treated,” he contended.
Jackson was at Farragut Wednesday to discuss the importance of Latinos and African-Americans exercising their right to vote and working together for economic and social justice, including comprehensive immigration reform.
To students eligible to vote this November, he told them they can “determine the next governor and the next senator. You have that power and you must use it.
“At graduation time, every senior that comes across the stage must have a diploma in one hand and a voter registration card in the other,” he said, as he encouraged African-American students to learn Spanish and Latino students to learn English.
Blacks and Latinos have a long history of working together for civil rights, Jackson noted, pointing to the Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. working with Cesar Chavez to help migrant farm workers.
“We must fight for voting rights together and comprehensive immigration reform together,” he said. “We must not allow families to be destroyed by bad immigration policy. … When we fight together, we always win.”
After his speech, students and teachers presented Jackson with a birthday cake.
Among those in attendance at the assembly was senior Nayeli Ferrer, 17, who liked his message on the importance of voting.
“I think he motivated us,” she said. “It’s important so we can have a say on our rights, [on] what we want.”
Contributing: Associated Press