Friday, March 13, 2009

Looking Back...Haitians Face Hurdles

Peoria Journal Star
January 8, 2003


Pam Adams

Haitians face hurdles in Miami, Peoria

In Miami, Haitians arrive by the hundreds.

In Peoria, they come a few at a time.

In Miami, Haitians arrive in rickety wooden boats.

In Peoria, they come by plane.

In Miami, Haitians, adults and children, dive off the rickety, wooden boats.

In Peoria, Haitian babies and children get off the plane.

In Miami, Haitians must sneak off the boats.

In Peoria, there's always someone waiting for them at the airport.

In Miami, Haitians are arrested if they're caught sneaking off the boat.

In Peoria, they go to a warm home with a soft bed and running water after they get off the plane.

In Miami, Haitians willfully risk their lives to reach U.S. shores.

In Peoria, sick Haitian children come because Dr. John Carroll, a local doctor, risks his time, money and, lately, his career to save their lives.

In Miami, Haitians arrive because they're fleeing Haiti.

In Peoria, they arrive knowing they will go to OSF St. Francis Medical Center for surgery.

In Miami, Haitians face months in prison, then deportation, after they're arrested.

In Peoria, Haitian babies face a new life with a healthy heart after the surgery.

The Haitians flooding into Miami are refugees.

The Haitians trickling in and out of Peoria are among the healthiest of Haiti's sickest children.

The United States is tired of Haitian refugees flooding into Miami seeking political asylum.

OSF St. Francis is tired of Haitian babies trickling into Peoria for heart surgery.

Early last year, the government's Immigration and Naturalization Service began carrying out a new secret policy, meant only for Haitian boat people.

Early last year, OSF St. Francis began cutting back on the millions in charity aid the hospital once gave Haitian Hearts, the volunteers who bring Haitian children to Peoria, care for them in their homes before and after surgery, and raise money to help pay for the surgeries.

The INS said the new, secret policy reflects government fears of a mass exodus from the poverty-stricken, politically-lawless country.

OSF St. Francis' chief of surgery said, ''We can't do everything for everybody all the time.''

The government's policy toward Haitian refugees brought out longstanding contradictions in the government's policy toward Haiti.

OSF St. Francis' much earlier decision to fire Dr. John Carroll, for matters unrelated to Haitian's hearts, brought out growing queasiness about the hospital's commitment to the poorest of the poor.

While the INS cracked tough on Haitian refugees, the Bush administration blocked federal aid to Haiti, including aid for medical care.

When OSF St. Francis fired Dr. Carroll, he predicted the hospital would eventually kill the Haitian Hearts program.

As the year ended, national newscasts flashed the spectacle of frantic Haitian refugees, plowing ashore, dodging traffic across one of Miami's busiest highways, begging strangers for a lift to freedom.

Right after the year began, local television outlets carried the lonely scene of Dr. Carroll picketing St. Francis, carrying a sign saying ''OSF Administrators: Respect for Life Includes Haitians.''

The U.S. government declared all Haitian detainees would be treated fairly, appropriately and humanely.

OSF St. Francis suspended the Haitian Hearts program, saying the group owed the hospital at least $500,000, and Dr. Carroll wasn't following previous agreements.

In Miami, supporters of the Haitian refugees called the government's actions racist. Cuban boat people, they noted, are treated differently.

In Peoria, Dr. Carroll's supporters called OSF St. Francis' actions heartless. The hospital's mission, they noted, is not based on anyone's ability to pay.

In Miami, even the most stringent, most racist government policies won't stop hundreds of Haitian refugees from risking their lives.

In Peoria, the stand-off between one doctor and one hospital risks the lives of dozens of Haitian children.

Pam Adams is a columnist with the Journal Star.

My comments from today, March 8, 2009:

1. Pam was wrong. Haitian Hearts WAS one of the reasons I was fired from OSF.

2. The OSF ER was sick and I told OSF Administration that the ER problems were part of a systemic hospital wide problem that needed a hospital wide solution. And the ambulance monopoly in Peoria was controlled by OSF and the conflict of interest ran deep and they knew I knew this also.

3. OSF fired me, their Adminstrator spoke to many people outside the community about me and my termination, cut all funding for Haitian kids heart surgery, dangerously delayed Haitian surgeries of patients in Peoria, attempted to obtain money that was Haitian Hearts, offered Haitian Hearts no itemized bills, promised to follow the founding Sisters Mission philosophy but didn't, called the American Consulate in Haiti, condemned Haitian kids to misery and death, yet OSF said I was not following procedeures.

Peoria Journal Star

April 27, 2005



Shame, compassion powerful tools

First came word of the city's new policy of shaming negligent landlords into fixing up neglected property.

With fanfare generated by press conference - meaning city officials want the media to know what they're doing this time - workers staked up a big, embarrassing sign in front of a dilapidated house along Illinois Avenue, naming the landlord and urging neighbors to urge him to do the right thing and repair the house.

City Manager Randy Oliver clearly hopes public humiliation can make a dent where laws, code violation notices and court-imposed fines have failed. The city plans to post shaming signs on five more properties this week. Maybe shaming will make a difference; maybe it won't.

But by Monday, workers were already repositioning the sign in front of the house along Illinois. Apparently someone tore it down over the weekend.

Then came Saturday's meeting of middle-school students in Tri-County Urban League's Tomorrow's Scientists, Technicians and Managers (TSTM). Carl Cannon, assistant manager of the RiverPlex, was the speaker.

Cannon, a former prison guard, became famous in these parts for his efforts to scare young people into doing the right thing with a youth empowerment program called CHOICES. He still brings the former inmates and parolees with him, and they still use shock tactics to grab and hold students' attention as they detail the harsh consequences of felonious choices. But Cannon admits he has evolved from his initial macho "scared-straight" mentality.

"Working in the (prison) industry," he says, "that was all I knew." Once he started talking and listening to the students he was trying to reach or save or change, his thinking moved beyond the prison walls. He added a pledge about hope and began telling young people he loved them. He began changing; his message began changing.

Shock and shame and fear and embarrassment have always been potent weapons in the cultural arsenal of regulating public behavior. Sometimes it's the little guy, with little power, who tries embarrassing a powerful entity into changing its ways. We saw that last year with Dr. John Carroll's failed and lonely effort to picket OSF St. Francis Medical Center, as he tried to shame his former employer into treating more heart patients from Haiti.

Remember when the state began releasing mug shots of deadbeat dads, along with the amounts of child support they owed? Remember Penny Wood, the Pekin woman who became the poster child for "just say no" when a Tazewell County judge got her to agree to the release of her photo pre- and post-methamphetamine use?

In a society that has turned government-administered punishment into an industry, it is getting easier and easier to find small but telltale admissions of the fact that legally justified forms of punishment leave a lot to be desired in terms of deterrence or encouraging people to change - as long as they're more about winning or revenge than healing.

I give you the city's shaming signs press conference last Thursday as exhibit A. Carl Cannon's evolution from scaring kids straight to scaring them with compassion would be my exhibit B.

But the most powerful evidence presented locally in the last few days came when former Gov. George Ryan spoke here about abolishing the death penalty.

Ryan was a powerful man, arguably the most powerful elected official in the state, when he called a moratorium on state-sponsored executions five years ago. He was also plagued with his own shame and scandal and is awaiting trial now on multiple corruption charges.

But there is no denying that the shame and shock of learning that 13 people were wrongfully sentenced to execution changed his conscience and his behavior.

Pam Adams is a columnist with the Journal Star. Her e-mail address is

My comments today, March 8, 2009:

Did my attempts fail?

OSF now has an International Committee that does screen international kids for surgery. And they have accepted some Haitian kids in the last few years for surgery at OSF.

But they won't take Haitian Hearts patients that have been operated at OSF in the past or any new patients from me.

I think OSF has failed their Haitian patients but not as badly as they might have if nothing was done to make the public aware.

OSF's Administration and attorney respond to bad publicity and lawsuits. Sorry, the Sister's Mission Statements don't mean much to these guys.

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