Friday, January 24, 2014

the last book I ever read (Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial, excerpt four)

from Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink:

Burgess had taken up nursing to support her children after working jobs as various as taxi dispatcher and secretary to a mortician. But practicing nursing in mid-twentieth-century New Orleans had presented an unsettling paradox for a woman like Burgess with light-brown skin; she could care for patients at many of the private hospitals, but could not receive care at them. Though Jannie Burgess was born just a few months after Memorial opened in 1926 as Southern Baptist Hospital, it would be more than four decades before she could be a patient there.

In fact, Baptist was one of the last Southern hospitals to submit to integration. Medicare and other federal hospital programs were introduced in the mid-1960s, and hospitals were ineligible for reimbursements if they discriminated against or racially segregated patients. Baptist refused to join the programs. “It is our conviction,” a 1966 hospital statement said, “that we can serve all of the people better if we remain free of governmental entanglements that would dictate the terms and conditions under which this hospital shall be operated.”

New Orleanians sent supportive letters to the hospital’s administrator. “It’s heartening to realize that there are still some who do not succumb to the dictates of socialism,” one person wrote. “Congratulations,” wrote another, “on retaining the integrity of the hospital in the face of the ever growing pressure of the Federal government to take away the rights of the business and professional men of this nation.”

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