11 Right of people to health care and the rights of health workers

Final Resolution for Workshop 11
Approved by the Plenary of the ILPS First International Assembly
25-27 May 2001
Zutphen, The Netherlands

Right of people to health care and the rights of health workers

The turn of the millennium has witnessed a worsening global health crisis. New diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, several kinds of hepatitis have emerged over the past 20 years, while other old infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, malaria and diphtheria are ironically coming back worldwide, despite advances in modern technology.

Health care, long ago acclaimed a basic human right, has become increasingly inaccessible to millions of people. More than ever before, world health is determined by the politics of monopoly capitalism that has turned it from a social service into a lucrative source of superprofits. In the guise of “globalization”, people’s health has been turned into an opportunity to dump excess production of drugs and health supplies, to absorb excess capital in new health products and technologies, and take over social health systems being privatized. This appears to be an intensified phase of monopoly capitalist expansion, exploitation and oppression. It is brought about by the chronic global overproduction in all types of goods that is leading to the further destruction of productive forces in the form of production cut downs, mass layoffs and bankruptcies.

In collusion with national governments and their ruling elite, imperialists use regional and multilateral economic mechanisms like the IMF-World Bank and WTO, and transnational corporations to push for the entry of excess capital and surplus products so that they can earn megaprofits. Structural adjustment programs have imposed budget cuts in health, the privatization of health care services and liberalized entry of TNC products and investments that are aggravating the health crisis in both Third world and imperialist countries. Debt service, militarization and wars have resulted in further budget cuts and marginalization of people’s health services.

Globalization and imperialist wars have destroyed economies and wrought havoc on the lives of the majority of the people worldwide. Millions bear the brunt through the further deterioration of their health as a result of the economic ruin, war and imperialist policies to wring more profit out of health systems of countries worldwide. Similarly, health workers all over the world experience displacement, loss of job security, denial of their economic benefits and suppression of their right to organize.

Many health workers have often encountered difficulty in fulfilling their humanitarian function and have themselves become targets of harassment. On the other hand, there is an upsurge in organizing and militant struggle among health workers to end globalization and its anti-health policies, and uphold people’s health programs within and outside of existing public health systems.

Countries that have taken the path of national and social liberation have experienced outstanding developments in health as witnessed in China during the first three decades after the liberation and in Cuba up to this date. The WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank cannot help but recognize these outcomes but have consciously taken pains to de-contextualize these achievements and disassociate them from the prevailing social-economic and political system.

Indeed, the world’s health problems are inextricably linked to fundamental economic, political and socio-cultural problems brought by moribund capitalism. The struggle for the people’s right to affordable and accessible health care can only be resolved in relation to the peopl’s struggle against imperialism, as well as the struggle of workers and peasants for national and social liberation.

We therefore resolve to fight to:-

  1. End imperialism and imperialist globalization. Advance the people’s struggles for national and social liberation

  2. End imperialist impositions on health systems

  3. End the privatization of health care services

  4. Uphold health as a basic human right and health care as a fundamental state responsibility. Prioritize health in the budget and end the re-channelling of government budgets for debt service and militarization.

  5. Stop deregulation and liberalization of investments and trade in health products and services.

  6. End TNC control on health products, health and medical research and development, and their influence on health education. Dismantle TRIPS and end biopiracy.

  7. Stop mass lay-off and contractualization of health workers. Uphold job security and provide rightful wages and benefits and safe working conditions for all health workers.

  8. Expose and oppose systemic racism as a tool of imperialism to divide the health workers of the North from those of the South.

  9. Promote medical/health education that is relevant, rational, scientific and pro-people.

  10. Develop global solidarity of health workers and for people’s health against imperialism. Reclaim the people’s right to health.

Immediately, we resolve to:

  1. Actively support and participate in peoples’ struggles against imperialist globalization.
  2. Expose the disastrous effects of imperialist globalization/imperialism on peoples’ health and health care in the industrialized and developing countries, including deceptively packaged schemes.
  3. Launch globally coordinated campaigns on privatization and for the removal of health services from GATS.
  4. Oppose the commodification of health and uphold a health care system that works for the people, not for profit.
  5. Oppose the WTO and put a stop to TRIPS and biopatenting.
  6. Fight TNC policies affecting health. Work for the abolition of patents on the pharmaceutical and health care industry. Work for accessible, affordable and safe drugs.
  7. Work to protect and develop the natural and human resources of countries for the welfare of its own people.
  8. Strengthen the movement of health workers to struggle for their rights and welfare and end all forms of harassment of health workers.
  9. Fight for the peoples’ right to free universal access to health care.
  10. Fight the commercialization of health education and of the health professions and promote the value of serving the people.

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