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As a first responder, I see the lack of health care in Chicago’s black community every day

It has taken a pandemic to call attention to health care disparities that force individuals and families to rely on emergency services. This is no way to deliver health care.

The black community is forced to rely too much on emergency services instead of regular health care. Health disparities have been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The black community is forced to rely too much on emergency services instead of regular health care. Health disparities have been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
AP Photo | Charles Rex Arbogast

It’s unfortunate that it takes a pandemic to highlight the devastating health status of the black community in Chicago.

As a first responder, I have witnessed for decades the lack of access, lack of health education/prevention and lack of services for those who are most disenfranchised in the black community.

One only has to ride on an ambulance in the poorest neighborhoods of the South and West sides to see this play out. It is a common occurrence for individuals and families in these neighborhoods to call 911 in their most critical (often too late) moment. Another common example: 911 calls made simply because individuals are now sick as a result of running out of medication for a chronic illness.

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All too often, there is a lack of access to primary care, and people are not provided with support and education to manage their health issues. The health system has failed these communities, so they commonly rely on a rescue from emergency services. This is no way to deliver comprehensive care. It’s very costly and inefficient. It is a disservice, and everyone pays the cost.

If you want to look further, emergency services are now answering thousands of calls per year for heroin overdoses. Narcan, the antidote for these overdoses, is handed out multiple times daily in these very same black communities. Where is Chicago’s health department to address these problems?

Relying heavily on emergency medical services is like putting a band-aid on an amputation.

Todd Taylor, Jefferson Park

A thank you to Gov. Pritzker

Illinois physicians and hospitals commend Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his steadfast leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every day he faces tough choices, and he is clearly making decisions with the interests of Illinoisans in mind. Our governor is also taking the time to listen to the experts. A good example was his recent executive order extending civil liability protection to health professionals and hospitals during this crisis.

The Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association jointly asked his office to issue this order. It did not take long for our conversations with the governor’s office to lead to much-needed protections for front-line health care workers.

Increasing COVID-19 testing statewide, the incredible momentum to turn McCormick Place into an alternative care site and engaging the Army Corps of Engineers to open shuttered facilities are significant accomplishments. The executive order requiring health insurers to pay for telemedicine is another decisive action that cleared the way for non-COVID-19 patients to maintain treatment with physicians and health systems.

Pritzker’s daily battles to obtain personal protective equipment, ventilators and other critical resources are very much appreciated as we near an expected surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The days and weeks ahead will be difficult, but decisiveness and ability to make hard choices is critical now.

Thank you, Gov. Pritzker, for doing what is right to protect the wellness and safety of us all.

Paul E. Pedersen, MD, president, Illinois State Medical Society
A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO, Illinois Health and Hospital Association

Release elderly inmates

One of the things that binds humans together during challenging times is our ability to look beyond immediate self-interest and extend our care to those in need, like those serving time in our prisons and jails. The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. This easily describes sitting in a cell watching a deadly illness spread with no ability to protect oneself.

A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. In Matthew 25, Jesus said ‘What you do for the least of these, you do for me.’

As decent, faithful and compassionate people, we must stand up now for those entrusted in our care. We know that our elderly are most at risk and also that elderly inmates have near zero recidivism rates upon release.

Contact your representatives and urge them to release those whose lives are endangered.

Rev. Pam Rumancik, Riverside