Clinic that Houston Janitors Can Afford

Houston janitors walked off their jobs to protest low wages and benefits. It lead to a health clinic for the union representing the workers. It is a partnership between Baylor College of Medicine and a major healthcare provider. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Susan Polowsky: “Felicidares to the janitors here today!”

Christmas came early for some 53-hundred commercial office janitors who belong to the Service Employees International Union. Susan Polowsky, executive director of SEIU local one in Houston, told them their job action two years ago called attention to the crisis faced by hard working people here and around the country to the lack of quality affordable health care. She said responsible corporate leaders stepped up to create an innovative plan to provide quality healthcare at a fraction of the cost of insurance.

“The Houston Service Workers Clinic will give janitors access to the kind of healthcare that too many people can’t afford.”

image of Dr. John RogerDoctor John Rogers is the interim chair of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine it is his charge to run the clinic and coordinate the care with the insurance provider.

“It’ll be complete standard primary care, acute medical problems: sore throats, colds, backaches, that kind of stuff. It’ll be chronic illness care that’s planned.  You know, blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, where people come back on a regular basis to keep that controlled, so they don’t have to go to emergency rooms during the hospitals. It’ll be preventive care services: pap smears, mammograms, you know, those kinds of things so that we detect things early and prevent stuff, and a lot of it is emotional and mental health issues.”

He says if they treat with a primary care of doctors, illness can be prevented, money is saved in the long run and people get the care there they’re comfortable. Doctor Jim Nadler is medical director for Cigna Healthcare, which will provide insurance coverage for medical care beyond what the clinic will offer.

“Everybody wants a doctor. Everybody wants to have a place to go where people know you. They care about you.  They have all your records, and this clinic in particular is going to be a little bit high tech, because they have electronic medical records and those kind of things like that. In fact, some people here might get better care than many other people who do not have a medical home of a primary care physician.”

Union head Susan Polowsky thinks janitors risked their jobs for something she calls a no-brainier:

“I think at the end of the day will make them more productive employees. You won’t have people coming in sick. You won’t have people missing work, because they’ll be able to get the care that they need. I think that is a good thing for Houston.”

The clinic will open initially on Fannin, but the players involved are negotiating for another location to be open in February.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.

image of Houston janitors