Chicago: Over the entire course of the Democratic National Convention, doctors, health care workers and activists maintained a round-the-clock vigil sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Hundred of advocates from many organizations, deeply concerned by the Democrats decision to remove universal coverage from the party platform, kept the vigil for more than eighty hours.
“On Tuesday, Democrats disappointed the nation by passing their party platform unanimously despite eliminating their previous commitment to universal health care coverage,” said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of PNHP. “Where does America turn now to get relief from the uncertainty and fear of tenuous economic and health security. Neither party is prepared to take on the corporations and respond the American public’s wishes or the practice in the rest of the industrialized world and commit to providing quality health care for everyone.”
After the federal court lifted the city’s restrictive protest guidelines on August 23, Dr. Young returned to the court to ask for relief from the physical arrangements which sharply limited the vigil from even communicating with convention delegates, contrary to the judge’s initial order. “The city did not succeed in suppressing dissent, but it certainly did limit its impact,” said Dr. Young.
On the last nights of the vigil, Dr. Gordon Schiff, past-president of PNHP, and Dr. Peter Draper, Chairperson of the Illinois PNHP Chapter, both stayed at the site of the vigil all night to demonstrate their commitment to national health insurance. “In 1996, the city employed every device to restrict speech, in sharp contrast to their abusive confrontation in 1968. By some standards this is progress, but far short of the American tradition of vigorous free speech. We view the vigil as a success. It has energized large numbers of activists and advocates to look beyond the election for broad based strategies to reform the health care system and provide all Americans with the health care they deserve,” said Dr. Schiff.