Redlining essex County Health Care

REDLINING COVID-19 HEALTH CARE IN ESSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

submitted by Lisa Davis

How is DispatchHealth, which promotes itself as a mobile health care unit that makes house calls, able to operate in Essex County, NJ by only serving the predominantly white communities, while excluding the predominantly Black and Brown ones? According to it’s website, “for the same cost as an urgent care visit, the DispatchHealth house call team arrives at your door able to test and treat COVID-19 symptoms, flu, strep, mono…don’t worry, we treat everything an urgent care can, and more. Stay Home, Stay Safe, Let DispatchHealth Come to You.”

But if you live in Essex County, you can verify by going to its zipcode checker, that Dispatch Health does not service the county’s predominantly Black/Brown communities, which include East Orange, Orange, Irvington, and Newark. (I checked all the zipcodes in the county and took screenshots of everything, so I have the receipts.)

New York City and Northern New Jersey, where Essex County is located, are where the pandemic initially hit the hardest in this country. Currently Essex County has the highest COVID death statistics in the state, and as is true to the pattern, the townships that suffer the most are the Black and Brown ones – its urban centers. The county is comprised of 22 municipalities, with only four of them being predominantly Black and Brown. The other 18 are predominantly white. As of 4/4/21, the county currently has 78, 357 COVID infections, and 2,512 deaths. Of that number over 63% of the infections, at 49,002, are in the Black and Brown communities, and 65% of the deaths, at 1,534, are in these communities as well.

Yet this is the same state that is now asking the Black community for its trust as it targets us with experimental, unlicensed shots, that have yet to be approved by the FDA.   (Not that FDA approval should be the Black community’s  gold standard for medical acceptance; however we do need to understand what not being FDA approved means.)  

But the focus of this article is NOT the vaccine.    The focus of this article is to expose the medical racism that continues to be deliberately practiced by this colonialist health care system against the Black community and other oppressed people as well.

PANDEMIC EXPOSES COLONIALISM AS THE DEADLIEST VIRUS

If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that not even during a worldwide pandemic will the colonialist systems of racism and oppression ever relent up on its barbaric treatment of Black people.

While many in the white community tested the limits of social distancing guidelines by refusing to wear masks and being confrontational with the police about it, Black people were met with police brutality for the slightest transgressions.   And the mandatory lock downs did not provide any sense of safety for our community as the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, etc., forced the masses of us back onto the streets to fight against police terror.

However, never to be outdone by its police counterpart in perpetuating racist oppression, we also saw another familiar pattern — Black people’s health during the pandemic fared far worse than that of white people.   Black people were hospitalized 2.5 – 4.5 more times than white people and had one of the highest overall death rates.   Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that medical staff had unprecedented decision-making powers over a person’s care, including decisions regarding “do not resuscitate” orders, since family members were prevented from seeing their hospitalized loved ones who were diagnosed with COVID.   This certainly leaves one to wonder how many deaths of Black people were due to the racist biases of doctors making decisions to not resuscitate. (Under ordinary circumstances I have personally witnessed doctors put insurmountable pressure on Black families to take their loved ones off life support after only being on it for about a week.).   And given the embedded racism that permeates the medical establishment, COVID-19 presented the perfect construct for the Black community to bear the brunt of the devastation unleashed by this virus.      In fact, the racism was so stark that that many nurses made videos about the horrible way in which many Black patients were being treated.

BLACK PEOPLE ARE THE LAST IN LINE FOR PROPER MEDICAL TREATMENT, BUT THE FIRST IN LINE FOR MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION

Racial biases and disparate treatment of Black and Indigenous communities by the healthcare system is well documented.    The 2003 report commissioned by Congress to study racial disparities in healthcare, “Unequal Treatment” revealed that a large percentage of Black people receive a lower quality of health care services and are even less likely to receive routine medical procedures than white Americans.  This still holds true today.   They are less likely to receive appropriate life saving cardiac care and kidney care, and in many cases they are often less likely to receive basic clinical services, such as intensive care.    This happens even when all other factors taken into consideration, such as insurance and co-morbidities, are the same as for white patients.   Needless to say, this is a major contributing factor to high mortality rates among African people in this country. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposes the persistence of these disparities.    Early on, the white communities were the first equipped with treatment centers and testing kits, while reports of the lack of testing facilities in Black and Brown Communities abound,  and many  people seeking medical assistance were turned away from hospitals without ever being treated or tested.

The question that must be asked re Dispatch Health is how is a healthcare agency that openly refuses to serve Black and Brown communities able to operate in New Jersey?  And how are they able to receive Medicare and Medicaid government contracts?   Where are the checks and balances?   Either they are doing it with the knowledge of the State and Federal Government, or they are able to operate without proper oversight.   Either scenario reflects a complete failure of the government to meet the needs of our people.   

But yet, for the experimental unapproved vaccines the Black community is now the major group that is suddenly on the minds of this colonialist government. New Jersey is pushing hard to convince Black people to get the vaccine. Even though there has never been a second when this government or it’s medical profession hasn’t engaged in overt racist brutality against our community, they are now claiming that we are can “trust” them. How this fits another refrain — that Black and Indigenous people receive the least amount of healthcare services, but are always among the first to be targeted for medical experimentation! We are always first on their minds for testing drugs, but the last to receive known therapeutics.   

BLACK COMMUNITY CONTROL OVER EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES IS THE ONLY SOLUTION!

Be clear, I am not writing this article to get our people to demand that Dispatch Health provide services to the Black community. To the contrary, as the Vice Chair of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC), and chair of its Health Care Working Group, I don’t want any entity with those practices anywhere near Black people. In fact, if you are Black or Indigenous living in an area that Dispatch Health does service – you should not utilize them, because they will ensure that you have the worst outcome.  Instead we should seek to go after their funding sources because no entity like this should be allowed to collect any kind of government funding!  In fact, no such entity should even be allowed to operate in the State or anywhere for that matter.

The BIBC is a coalition of organizations committed to the Black Liberation Struggle and Black empowerment.   Our mission is to obtain Black Community Control over every aspect of our lives.  Be it the educational system, the criminal justice system, or the healthcare system, we seek to completely overturn these colonialist systems founded upon racist sewage   In short, our goal is to overthrow colonialism!    The racist brutality of western medicine is euphemistically referred to as “implicit bias” and is characterized as being unintentional.   I reject that premise.   Western medicine has a history as brutal and as deliberate as it’s police counterpart.   And it was spawned from the same system of enslavement and genocide. as this country’s system of policing.    And it is with this realization that the BIBC Healthcare Working Group was founded to be a fearless, unrelenting advocate for our people on the medical front.    We have some victories under our belt, and we are more than prepared to fight back against the deadly redlining practices of agencies such as Dispatch Healthcare Services.

And most importantly, it is not acceptable at all for Black medical professionals to merely acknowledge that racism is endemic in the medical profession, with their only solution being to trust and assimilate into it.    It especially makes no sense to trust them during this pandemic when one considers the fact that the African nations, including Haiti, have some of the best COVID-19 statistics in the world, , while the US and Europe have the worst.   One search on Worldometer.com will confirm that. Much of  the continent still uses Traditional African Medicines.    Africa has the oldest continuous population on earth,  which predates modern day  Europe by over 150,000 years.    Mitochondrial Eve, who is the matrilineal most common ancestor and defined asthe most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mother’s DNA is also from Africa.   Y Chromosomal Adam, who is the patrilineal ancestor to which all humans  can trace their uninterrupted lineage back to  through their fathers’ side was also found in Africa.      This lineage did not survive through happen stance.  It survived because these are the people  who established the knowledge, wisdom, and medicinal science to thrive on earth so that the human lineage could continue.          And it is imperative that we as African people all over the globe take complete control over our health. We must decolonize ourselves from this eurocentric, colonialist health care system. Relying on the oppressor for anything, especially our medical needs, is the biggest threat to the health of African people throughout the world. African Liberation and the return to our way is the cure.

REFERENCES
Dispatch Health Morristown Urgent Medical Care and COVID TestingCOVID Tracker by county and New Jersey
Essex County Coronavirus Cases for 4/4/21
Are Clinicians Contributing to African Americans COVID-19 Deaths
Hospitals Consider Universal DNR Orders for COVID-19 Patients
NJ Hospitals Consider DNR Orders for COVID Patients to Protect Medical Staff
The Color of Coronavirus. COVID-19 Deaths by Race and Ethnicity
Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare
The Effects of Race and Sex on Physician’s Recommendations for Cardiac Catheritization
Racial Disparities in Critical Care: Experience from the USA
Reckoning With the History of Medical Violence and Racism in the USA

 

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