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Coronavirus: End the Hostile Environment to Fight the Pandemic

Coronavirus: End the Hostile Environment to Fight the Pandemic

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This petition has been created by Greg D. and may not represent the views of the Avaaz community.
Greg D.
started this petition to
Liverpool University Hospitals, Liverpool Womens, Mersey Care, Alder Hey, Southport & Orms
We write to you as supporters of the NHS, aware that staff are risking their lives to defend the public from COVID-19, and in the belief that NHS organisations wish to do everything in their power to deal with the emergency we all now face.

We therefore call on you to remove barriers to an effective public health response, by suspending all charges for NHS treatment and reporting of debt to the Home Office. Anyone can be infected or infect others. Everyone is part of the community at risk. Everyone must now feel confident to seek treatment as needed and to aid in tracing contacts of anyone identified as infected with the virus, a strategy the World Health Organisation is urging. [1]

We do not know if the government will take this advice or draw the conclusions which Ireland, Portugal, and South Korea have already done, assuring everyone in their countries that immigration status will not be an issue during the pandemic. [2]

It is not enough to state that testing and treatment for coronavirus is not chargeable. Migrants and others unable to prove their eligibility may feel at risk of being charged for other treatment should their illness prove not to be COVID-19. The diagnostic test is known only to have a sensitivity of approximately 75%, so even patients with true coronavirus infection may not have that confirmed, and many are likely to require hospital treatment despite negative test results. Personal information may be passed to the Home Office when they access care or fail to pay subsequent charges. Migrants, like others, must feel confident and safe to seek treatment.

We call on you to take the initiative, in line with WHO strategy, and remove the fear amongst patients who may need medical help and who should be seen as allies in helping to contain the virus.

Specifically, we ask you to now:

* take down all hostile publicity re NHS charges and impact of debt on visas etc.

* suspend the NHS charges and stop reporting patient details and debt to the Home Office

* convey to the public on Merseyside that your hospital intends to treat everyone, freely and regardless of immigration status, as part of the effort to contain COVID-19.

We call on Councillors and MPs to endorse this open letter and to use your influence, locally and nationally, to suspend the Hostile Environment and implement an effective public health strategy.

We call on unions and community organisations to endorse and publicise this letter with your members and to use your political influence in pursuit of our demands.

We call on everyone to sign this open letter, discuss the issue with friends and colleagues, raise it in your organisations, contact your Councillors and MPs.

The Hostile Environment was always wrong. Now it puts us all at risk.

Dr Jonathan Folb, Consultant Microbiologist, Liverpool University Hospitals FT

Dr Andrea Franks, Consultant Dermatologist

Dr Hannah Ryan, Junior Doctor, Liverpool University Hospitals FT

Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, retired public health physician

Dr Colin McKean, GP, retired

Sheila Altes, Specialist Practitioner - General Practice Nursing, retired

Dr Mick McKeown, Professor of Democratic Mental Health, University of Central Lancashire, and Research Nurse, Mersey Care

Helen Marks, Retired family therapist and manager of a CAMH team in the Alder Hey Hospital Trust. Volunteer therapist for the Family Refugee Support Project in Liverpool

Stuart Tuckwood, Unison National Nursing Officer

Dr Latefa Narriman Guemar, Research Associate/Lecturer, Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging, University of East London

Greg Dropkin, Keep Our NHS Public, retired NHS admin

Lesley Mahmood, Save Liverpool Women's Hospital & KONP

Paul Grunnill, retired Probation Officer

Teresa Williamson, Save Liverpool Women's Hospital & KONP

Felicity Dowling, Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Nina Houghton, Save Liverpool Womens Hospital Campaign;Chair: Wavertree Constituency Labour Party

Kath Gilbert, Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Mary Whitby, Save Ormskirk and Southport Hospitals

Tim Hayden, Chair, Riverside Labour Party

Helen Dickson, Women's Officer, Liverpool Wavertree CLP

Sue Ferguson, Garston & Halewood LP Treasurer

Jeremy Hawthorn, Campaign Officer, Riverside Labour Party

Tom Bimpson, International Officer Merseyside Association of TUCs

Gwen Backwell
John Backwell

Eddie Scraggs

Judith Varley

Jessica Northey, Former International Coordinator for the Green Party of England and Wales

Andrew Burgin, Left Unity


Notes

1. BMJ editorial “Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice?”
https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1284

2. Irish Health Minister Simon Harris told the Senate on 20 March: “On the specific issue of people who are undocumented, I want to provide an assurance to those people that the health service will treat them with dignity and with absolute privacy and patient confidentiality, as will their social work system, during this time of emergency. We want people to come forward to be tested. We want to be able to find the virus, isolate the virus and contact people who have been in contact with the virus. We absolutely need people to come forward. The thought that anybody would not come forward who may need medical treatment, and who could help us to slow down the spread, is one on which we need to provide reassurance.”

https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad/2020-03-20/8/

As CNN has reported, undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in Portugal have been granted the same rights as residents, including access to medical care, in the current state of emergency.

Portugal gives migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during coronavirus outbreak
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/30/europe/portugal-migrants-citizenship-rights-coronavirus-intl/index.html

In South Korea, undocumented immigrants can be tested without risk of deportation.https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20200305142400064 (in Korean).
Cited in PHM Korea statement on COVID-19 outbreak and responses in South Korea
http://phmovement.or.kr/phm-korea-statement-on-covid-19-outbreak-and-responses-in-south-korea
Posted: 7 April 2020 (Updated: 21 April 2020)