Reinstate workers eliminated at clinic

If the University can lobby to secure funding for a new stadium, surely it can fund a small community clinic.

The University of Minnesota is a land-grant institution. The citizens of Minnesota gave the land and the money to build the University because they wanted access to a quality higher education for themselves and their families, as well as public services that the University in its mission statement pledged to provide.

The educational needs of the citizens of Minnesota were served for many years by the University. General College, for the century that it existed, was the gateway to a quality higher education for working class Minnesotans and their children. But, by closing General College, the University turned its back on the educational needs of working class people of the state.

In 1966, the University opened the doors of Community University Health Care Center in the Phillips neighborhood to “provide primary care services to children and low income families in South Minneapolis.”

When the University sold the hospital to Fairview, the University’s administration pledged to continue financing and operating Community University Health Care Clinic in order to ensure that the health care needs of lower income citizens would be served.

CUHCC’s success in bringing health care to generations of vulnerable South Minneapolis families is a matter of public record. Community University Health Care Clinic is loved and respected in the community because of the extraordinary work and commitment of its staff. The dedicated medical, dental, mental health and legal staff of CUHCC have provided essential services to the community for decades.

CUHCC’s survival is now in jeopardy. Dr. Frank Cerra, head of the University’s Academic Health Center, has told the clinic that it must pay back the clinic’s operating expenses of $2.5 million. They have been instructed to eliminate $50,000 from their monthly budget. To do this the clinic has eliminated 20 full-time positions, while increasing the number of patients who are treated each day, making it impossible for CUHCC to carry out its mission. By decreasing front line staff and increasing workloads, CUHCC will be effectively one step closer to closing its doors.

$50,000 each month is not even a speck on the budget of the University of Minnesota. If the University can afford to pay the exorbitant salaries commanded by the head coach of the football team, Glen Mason ($1.65 million per year), Frank Cerra ($410,000 per year) and Bob Bruininks ($350,000 per year) it can surely find a way to fund CUHCC clinic.

If the University can lobby strongly enough to secure funding for a new football stadium, surely it can fund a small community clinic that provides such a huge service, not only to the patients who walk through the door, but the community as a whole. If Bob Bruininks wants the University to be a world-class institution, he needs first to work to fulfill its land-grant mission. He needs to remember that this University works because we do.

Community University Health Care Center not only makes a huge contribution to the patients who walk through the door but to the community as well.

Unfortunately, as the University turns its back on the educational and health care needs of working class citizens of the state and moves forward with its research agenda, the big winners will be private sector companies who use the University’s research to fill their coffers and the big losers will be the working citizens of the Minnesota.

Barb Bezat is the President of AFSCME Local 3937, Rhonda Jennen is the President of AFSCME 3260 and Phyllis Walker is the President of AFSCME 3800. Please send comments to [email protected]