THREE MILE BAY — The themes of resilience, heartbreak and hope have made Ellen Marie Wi…
When it comes to healthcare, Dr. William G. Bronston a long history of seeking justice for all. Some of that life’s work is documented in his book, released last year, “Public Hostage, Public Ransom: Ending Institutional America.”
The book documents his three years at Willowbrook State School on Staten Island and how he was moved to document the public mobilization, media coverage, and federal court processes that ultimately led to the action Dr. Bronston helped awaken.
But as the title suggests, Dr. Bronston beyond Willowbrook. Willowbrook’s model, he says, is still with us and a detriment to our health care system. And that’s the main reason why he published the book nearly 35 years after Willowbrook’s closure.
“Why now? Because in America we are at the height of crises related to the unaffordability of medical care,” said Dr. Bronston, 83, in a telephone interview from his home in Carmichael, Calif. “It’s not for sale. You can buy medical care. And the medical system in America is so subordinated to corporate ownership and corporate control and so essentially squeezed toward privatization, despite the fact that we have Medicare and Medicaid as public systems.” .”
In the field of medical care, Dr. Bronston for “100% safety of the general population”.
“Willowbrook’s story is a story to look at at the center of the most expensive aspect of medical service, which is institutionalization — aggregated, segregated care,” said Dr. Bronston. “I’m not just talking about residential institutions. I’m talking about medical care. Our society is essentially littered with gigantic empires.”
dr. For example, Bronston said California has about half a dozen major medical companies that he said essentially dominate the healthcare industry.
“As the system moves more and more towards privatization, to make medical care unaffordable and health care unavailable, we are in a crisis situation,” he said.
The main remedy, according to Dr. Bronston, is universal health care.
“I have been very active in pushing for universal health care in America throughout my adult and professional life,” said Dr. Bronston. “This story is essentially a precursor to the unconditional reality and need for a radical change in our medical wealth transfer, stigma and labeling – the medical service system that dominates our society. Everything is medicalized. What that means is that everything is monetized to the extent that in our system of giving a medical term, a description of something, you can automatically bill the problem. You can generate income by defining the problem as a kind of situation.”
He added: “So the book foreshadows the danger of the social and moral consequences of defining people as less than you and me – less than human, and placing people in a dependent, money-bound state of the economy. .”
That money link carries with it a sense of dread, said Dr. Bronston.
“Everyone lives with a gut feeling that something might happen that they might not be able to handle economically,” he said. “They can’t count on society and its caring, compassionate relationship with each other.”
roots of advocacy
dr. Bronston spent three years at Willowbrook and, like his book documents, was a thorn in the side of the trustees all those years. His advocacy began in college at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, where he was a fellow at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with Dr. Richard Koch, who died in 2011 at the age of 89. “He was an early advocate against institutionalizing the developmental disabilities, which was common practice in 1955 when Koch was appointed director of the hospital’s newly established Clinic for the Study of Mental Disabilities,” his obituary wrote in the Los Angeles Times. The traveling clinics he founded evolved into dedicated regional centers that enabled children to stay at home with their families or live in a non-institutional environment.”
“My training was at the cutting edge of the field in the world, in terms of serving children who were different,” said Dr. Bronston. “Dick’s whole position was to distract people from institutions by providing the family with massive, interprofessional services.”
With that frame of mind and training, Willowbrook was an eye opener for Dr. Bronston when he arrived in the spring of 1970.
“I was absolutely stunned,” he said, “because even the institutions in California, like the state hospitals in California, were not nearly as miserable and brutal as the experience at Willowbrook.”
He said he was first assigned to what was “euphemistically” called the baby ward.
“I immediately had 200 of the most broken children imaginable,” said Dr. Bronston. “I was the only doctor caring for those 200 people.”
He writes in his book that at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, it had 200 beds served by more than 400 doctors.
“It was absolutely upside down,” said Dr. Bronston. “There were no off-service notes. I didn’t know what was wrong with the kids. I had two nurses and two wards—maybe three on a good day—for each of my four wards to treat 50 children in each of those wards who were absolutely devastated in terms of their medical and anatomical situation.
He said he heard there was no treatment plan for the residents of Willowbrook.
“I didn’t really understand that at first,” said Dr. Bronston. “It took me a year of struggle to really understand the reality of the situation. It was a slow learning process as I was overwhelmed every day with clinical responsibilities and the routine imposed on us by the system, which I had no doubts about at first because I was new to the place.”
Willowbrook’s administrative formula was largely to blame for his problems, Dr. Bronston.
“The population definition was that these were chronically ill, untreatable, progressively worsened patients — which is exactly what they weren’t,” said Dr. Bronston. “They were children and people with a developmental reality and a future. They had to be in an educational setting and they had to be essentially freed from the medical problems that were caused by the lack of adequate hygiene, care, medication and the lack of adequate diagnoses that they suffered under that place. The place was violent and totally inappropriate for anyone regardless of the extent of their disability. It was the wrong example. It was more a model of medical modeling than an educational model.”
Willowbrook, said Dr. Bronston, “crushed and destroyed” its population for money.
“The only way to describe Willowbrook is that it was a source of income for that state to pay off mortgages for these giant buildings that were being built,” he said. “The benefits of that were the high salaries and the benefits that came from establishing these places in terms of construction, the contracts left over for food, sheets, medicine, transportation, and everything to maintain this massive public workforce – the social system – that was essentially hired to run these concentration camps. And they were American concentration camps. Now they’re scattered. Now we have little ones called nursing homes and assisted living that cover the whole country and our society.”
That’s a harsh overview, but Dr. Bronston said a universal plan of care is the cure for what he sees.
“That’s why without a universal health care system – which is essentially free in terms of service and individualized for the entire population and integrated into society so that you don’t have to collect anything, keep it separate in terms of managing health care from people and their role in society and community – you’re going to have these kinds of atrocities.
Three Mile Bay author Ellen Marie Wiseman was finishing her latest novel, “The Lost Girls of Willowbrook,” last year when she read Dr. Bronston came across it shortly after it was published. dr. Bronston received an advanced copy of Mrs. Wiseman’s novel this year.
“By the time I got to the fourth chapter, I was so nervous I had to put it down,” said Dr. Bronston, adding that he had finished the book. He is pleased that Ms. Wiseman was able to skillfully use some of his insights.
“We have become very good friends and her publisher has invited me to come to New York to be with Ellen when her book comes out to stand shoulder to shoulder with her at book signings and media occasions,” he said. She is a major New York Times celebrity writer who is published in multiple languages. She feels, mutually, that the real story of Willowbrook is what people need to know about it. The synergy is a great honor. She is honored to be connected to the source of the real story and I am honored to be connected to someone who is marketing the story to the general public in a way that is more accessible than my documentary.”
The book of dr. Bronston, self-published through Page Publishing, is a collage of various elements, from legal documents and internal communications to photographs and newspaper articles. He copyrighted the book as a non-profit. “I didn’t want the money to come to me through royalties, instead of being able to redistribute them in terms of advocacy.”
Willowbrook State School, which opened in 1947, closed in 1987 after legal battles and public outcry. Before that, in 1975, New York Governor Hugh L. Carey signed a consent decree that ended the legal battle to improve conditions.
According to the National Council on Disability, a U.S. government consultancy, “While the consent decree did not require the complete closure of the facility, it determined that residents of Willowbrook had a constitutional right to be protected from harm and the state required that they took immediate action. steps to improve the lives of those who lived there.” The decree aimed to “prepare every resident for life in the community at large” and for the placement of Willowbrook residents in the “least restrictive and most normal living conditions possible”.
“No one from the inside has ever really written personally about fighting for justice in these horrible places and dealing with the irreconcilable, cruel, heartless, ignorant, incompetent bureaucracy that is essentially the norm in these state systems,” Dr. Bronston said.