Nurses for Single Payer

Nurses for Single Payer, Part I

by Betsy Zucker

Nurses for Single Payer (NFSP) began five years ago, during the January 2011 statewide, all-day, Oregon Single Payer Conference, which was held in the First Unitarian Church of Portland, with approximately 500 attendees. 

In many ways, NFSP grew out of the Portland Jobs with Justice (JWJ) Health Care Committee, where David Young, Dana Welty, and I had met, and where we had been working for single payer for several years. We felt that it was important to mobilize and publicize the voices of nurses in the fight for universal health care.  Three of us (David, Pamela Maciokas and myself) built the Big Nurse puppet, which greeted folks outside the Unitarian Church conference in 2011. Several of us from JWJ had helped organize the conference, and we called together a gathering of nurses over lunch, exchanged contact information, and decided to continue to meet. So began NFSP.

Dana Welty and I were among the initial organizers of the group. She's a neo-natal RN at OHSU, and was very active in Jobs with Justice at that time, with the Health Care Committee, as well as representing the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) at JWJ.

We started an email list for NFSP, had numerous meetings in members'' homes, and organized to support the lobby days and rallies in Salem for the single payer bill, beginning in 2011. We made NURSES FOR SINGLE PAYER buttons, and Kathy Birch got involved after she saw me wearing one. Kathy and Carole Most have been involved with NFSP for a number of years.

In March 2011, we rallied at the state capitol for the state single payer bill. Dana, clearly identifying herself as an RN, was one of the featured speakers. We carried signs identifying ourselves as nurses. NFSP continued to be active for several years, with house parties hosted by Kathy Birch and Todd Karakashian, and several activities at schools of nursing. Our goal was to educate and inform nurses about the single payer movement before HCAO's newsletters and website largely supplanted that need. Nurses joined us, or our email list, by word of mouth. We have been a presence at every statewide rally and lobby day for single payer since 2011, and NFSP members, with Big Nurse and our banner, have participated in other public events in the Portland area, as well as tabling at nursing conferences.

NFSP was one of the earliest groups to formally endorse what was called AHCAO (the Act for Health Care for All Oregon--the 2011 single payer bill) introduced by then Representative Michael Dembrow. Subsequently, NFSP was one of the first organizational members of the newly created statewide organization, Health Care for All-Oregon (HCAO), in 2012. Our own RN David Young was very involved in the extensive planning to create the coalition we now know as HCAO, and to help write the original Oregon single payer bill. Dana was instrumental in ONA's (Oregon Nurses' Association) endorsement of the state single payer bill, and their initial membership in HCAO. Several nurses who were involved five years ago have continued to be active in the broader single payer movement, but not specifically with NFSP. Yuriko Lee is the leader of HCAO Washington County, and Maria Grumm is involved with the HCAO Faith Caucus.

For several years NFSP held meetings; then we held together through an email list where I would alert folks to events, activities, and articles to read. We briefly became part of the "health professionals caucus" of HCAO, and now with new blood from Chris Tanner, Nancy Sullivan, and Tom Sincic, we are morphing into a new, more focused, professional and powerful group!

(to be continued)