With cold and flu season hitting New York, medical professionals are leaving the hospital and going to Zuccotti Park.
Late last month, a group of physicians calling itself Doctors for the 99 Percent marched from Zuccotti Park to the now-shuttered St. Vincent's Hospital to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests and call for universal health care. While the group's demand for free care for all has yet gone unmet, other doctors sympathetic to OWS have taken matters into their own hands. Zuccotti Park, the nucleus of the now-global Occupy movement, is now the site of free medical care of all kinds. And just in time for flu season.
Veterinarians who champion OWS show up to Zuccotti once a week to offer free checkups to the many dogs that have started living at the park with their owners. Elsewhere, there's a 24-hour medical center housed in a military tent, complete with wooden floors and a rotating staff of volunteer medical professionals. The doctors and nurses assist with everything from colds to broken bones to mental health issues, and all for free.
Supplementing the makeshift hospital Sunday was yet another team of doctors—this one from Columbia's health center and Physicians for a National Health Program—who came to Zuccotti to give free flu shots to protesters and others in the park. Because the occupiers are living in such close quarters, germs can spread quickly, so the doctors said they wanted to help quash widespread illness before it started.
It's all a far cry from a functional single-payer health care system, of course. But it's evidence that a dedicated group of people willing to sacrifice some time and money for the sake of others can benefit the well-being of everyone. And that's the ideal at the core of universal health care in the first place.