LOS ANGELES – The Free Speech Coalition, in response to a protest rally being held in Hollywood today by physicians with AIDS Healthcare Foundation who say the AHF’s focus has shifted from providing top-notch care for patients to spending money on campaigns and advocacy, issued this statement:
While the non-profit AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) leadership under founder and executive director Michael Weinstein continues a self-aggrandizing publicity tour attacking the adult film industry, his own doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners staged a protest today at AHF offices over poor working conditions and understaffing that has put patients at greater risk.
“Michael Weinstein has been crusading against the adult film industry while the patients under his care and the medical personnel working for him have suffered the brunt of his neglect as he seeks more publicity for himself,” said Diane Duke, chief executive officer for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC). “If Mr. Weinstein paid as much attention to caring for the doctors and nurses working for him and the patients under his supervision as he does every radio and TV appearance, the plight of AIDS patients in Los Angeles County might be much improved.”
The FSC has long maintained that the crusade by AHF and Weinstein against the adult film industry has come at a high price in terms of the care and level of services provided to AIDS patients, especially those from poor, minority communities where AIDS has been the most devastating, Duke said.
The protest by AHF physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants follows a July 31 vote to unionize in an effort to improve working conditions. Among the complaints cited by protesting medical personnel are: Heavy handed policies on patient loads and quotas, some as high as 21 patients a day per doctor; a lack of Spanish-speaking translators for patients; patient quota decisions being made by supervisors with no medical backgrounds; and an increased focus on politics and advocacy, while clinics see an increase in urgent-care patients
They allege that Weinstein and the organization’s involvement in politics — notably, AHF’s anti-adult industry mandatory condom campaign, as well as its initiative to create a new health department for the city of Los Angeles – have overrun AHF’s mission of caring for patients.
All of this comes in the wake of an audit in which Los Angeles County alleged AHF overbilled the Department of Public Health by $1.7 million in fiscal year 2008-09.
“The Free Speech Coalition has long maintained that Weinstein is more concerned about headlines than providing real care and like any large healthcare provider, making money and driving fundraising is a very real issue for him, which is why he has used a bogus health issue in condoms in filming to drive his media efforts,” Duke said. “It is clear there is no media interview Weinstein will turn down, but there are apparently plenty of patients that will have to wait longer for care at AHF facilities.”
“I don’t understand why [the protesting physicians] are calling this ‘patients before profits,’" Weinstein told the DailyNews yesterday in response to the rally. “We’re a nonprofit; 96 cents for every dollar goes to patients. We serve 230,000 patients worldwide, including 7,000 in Los Angeles, and those patients trust us with their lives."
To read more about the protest, click here.