A phalanx of battle-savvy community activists and seasoned health care providers sat across from a politically armed audience at 1199’s Hospital Workers Union headquarters on Oct. 20. The assembled were there to be updated on the current effort to secure hepatitis C treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal and the 10,000 other captives in the state of Pennsylvania’s prison system, who’ve been bureaucratically denied such treatment. Mumia was brought to near death earlier this year by this denial.
The hepatitis C virus has been known to trigger a myriad of illnesses and ultimately death. An anti-viral medication, currently available, has shown itself to be 95 percent effective in combating this “silent disease.” Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections administrators have been chronic foot-draggers in dispensing this medicine to the imprisoned population, citing “cost” as the main inhibitor.
Each well-informed panelist gave moving testimony. None embraced the specious notion that high cost was a valid excuse. A doctor from the U.S., trained in Cuba, graphically compared health care in Cuba to that here. The stark contrast when it comes to quality and cost is best illustrated by the phrase, “night and day,” with top-shelf-care being found in Cuba for all its citizens, regardless of income or ethnicity. Health care is free there!
Panelists included the following defenders of Mumia: Joe Piette, from the International Action Center and a Workers World writer; Sue Davis, National Writers Union, United Auto Workers 1981; Estela Vasquez, executive vice president of 1199; Pam Africa, minister of confrontation of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Dr. Suzanne Ross, psychologist, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition-NYC; Kamau Bektemba, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Maggie Tobin, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; Orie Lumumba, member of the MOVE Organization; Baron Graham, After Hours Project, hep-C outreach program; Bob Boyle, one of Mumia’s lawyers; and Dr. Melissa Barber, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, a Cuban-trained doctor.
All panelists supported medical justice for Mumia and the right of hep C prisoners in the Pennsylvania prison system to receive the proven anti-viral medication due them. Audience participants were of like mind when it comes to Mumia: adequate health care from a doctor of his choosing for the hep C treatment and his right to be free because he was/is innocent “from jump-street!”