Via America’s Lawyer: Major meatpacking companies deny health benefits to workers who have fallen ill or died from contracting COVID while forced to work during the pandemic. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more. Plus, reports show that wait times at L.A. county hospitals can exceed months, putting the lives of poor patients in jeopardy. RT Correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Tens of thousands of meatpacking employees have contracted COVID-19 and hundreds have died, but our regulatory agencies are so inept that they, there’s only a few thousand dollars that they’ve even, that they’ve said for fines. I mean, what was it, $29,000? It was some ridiculous number.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             $29,000 in fines?

Farron Cousins:                  $29,000 in fines, and an additional $2000 for non COVID related fines too.

Mike Papantonio:             Oh, yeah, okay. Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  But 200 people actually 203 by last count, 203 people died from COVID-19 after contracting it in a meat packing plant 42,000, also ill with it. The 42,000 can’t get workers comp for it.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, that’s the case. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the story, isn’t it? 42,000 people that Smithfield, lets, what an irony. Here you got Smithfield, it’s a Chinese owned company. They’re in there. How many people died from Smithfield? It was like, was it some ungodly number of people that died? Well, there’s 200 people dead. I don’t know what it was for Smithfield specifically. But you had, Smithfield it’s a Chinese company. You know, they, they, they launched the virus for us and they won’t even say, listen, if you come down with it, as you’re doing your job, we’re going to cover you. We’re going to take care of you. If you die, you’re going to have some, your family’s going to have some, some money coming in for your, for the loss, for your loss. And so, so what they’ve done is they’ve turned the workers’ compensation law on its head. They’ve turned OSHA on its head, haven’t they?

Farron Cousins:                  They, they really have because with the worker’s comp cases, they’re saying, well, you’re saying you caught this here, but we really think you probably caught it when you went to the grocery store. You caught it because you were out with your friends. And they do have, you know, there’s very good investigators working for these meat packing plants on their law firms, and they’ll go out and say, hey, you know, we spied them over at this place. We spied them at this place.

Mike Papantonio:             At church, they went to church.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  And so that’s probably where they caught it. So they’re doing all the sneaky underhandedness when we can almost definitively at this point prove, they got it from the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in these meat packing plants.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, here’s part of the problem. And I don’t mean to point with too big of a brush, but the worker comp lawyers, the people who typically do workers’ compensation are not really trial lawyers. Okay. They, they, you know, they’re they’re administrative hearings. And so they don’t really build a case to show how ridiculous it is that they can justify it. The, the OSHA standard is clear. The OSHA standard is that you have to have a workplace that’s free of hazards and it’s, and it works in a way to prevent injury, to prevent death. I mean, that’s OSHA and this is just the opposite. They come in. They don’t even give them masks. They don’t even pay attention to the problem for almost two months. No social distancing, no masks. It’s just like a free for all of, of, of this epidemic, right there in these, in these plants.

Farron Cousins:                  It really is. And this story is not just about the, you know, problems with the meat packing plants. It’s about the dysfunction of our regulatory agencies that’s been taking place for over 40 years at this point. You know, it doesn’t necessarily get a whole lot better under Democrats than it is under Republicans.

Mike Papantonio:             It doesn’t change at all.

Farron Cousins:                  We see the same dysfunction because you keep the same people in place, you know, oh, it’s not necessarily the same individual, but it’s somebody from industry and they’ll run OSHA, they’ll run the FDA, they’ll run department of transportation and all of that. And that’s why nothing ever changes. That’s why nobody gets fined. That’s why nobody goes to jail.

Mike Papantonio:             If it’s Republican, it doesn’t change. If it’s Democrat, it doesn’t change. Everybody’s just.

Farron Cousins:                  They’re is just more fines under Democrats.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. There’s this great groundswell of shame that’s going to take place.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             When Biden wins.

Farron Cousins:                  Oh God.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, really? Thank you.

Farron Cousins:                  Thank you.

Mike Papantonio:             A new investigation reveals that Los Angeles county’s poorest patients wait for months to see a medical specialist under the county’s public hospital system. It causes illnesses and it worsens into death. These patients have died before even getting an appointment on the books. I Got Brigida Santos with me to talk about it. Brigida you’re right out there. You’re seeing it firsthand. How, how long are patients waiting on the average to see a specialist under LAs public health system as dysfunctional as it is?

Brigida Santos:                   Patients in Los Angeles who rely on the county’s public hospital system, wait on average 89 days to see a specialist. Now this is according to a brand new investigation by the LA Times, which analyzed data of more than 860,000 requests for specialty care in one of the country’s largest public health systems. The investigation also finds that LA County patients wait significantly longer than elsewhere in the United States, including at the veterans health administration, which has faced scrutiny for its own problems with delays, Mike.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, when I saw this story, what struck me is that the, the anecdotal information was just as important as the, as, as the systemic evaluation of what happened, the numbers. How long have, how long of a wait has it been for some of these people who’ve, who’ve been injured and ended up dying because they can’t get in to see a doctor, give me some anecdotal information to talk about how serious this problem is in LA.

Brigida Santos:                   Sure. Times reporters interviewed dozens of former and current County healthcare providers, patients, and experts, and they also combed through those 860,000 specialists referrals. In addition, they obtained the complete medical records of half a dozen County patients. Now it’s incredibly hard to get that information due to HIPAA laws, which keep confidential records. Now all faced waits of at least three months to see a specialist and all died of the illnesses they were waiting to have treated. Now, one of these patients was a 30 year old mother of three, who had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, the size of a golf ball. She’d been approved for surgery, but nearly one year later, the hospital still had not scheduled the operation. Her tumor grew, and she went into a coma where her five-year-old daughter found her unconscious less than a week later, the woman died. Another woman age 60, who suffered from chronic urinary tract infections waited over eight months to get a referral to a urologist. She was then told she should see a kidney specialist, but the appointment couldn’t be scheduled for another three to six months. Her son found her dead on the floor before she ever got to see that specialist. Look, the list goes on. These stories are incredibly sad. Their deaths could have been prevented had they seen a specialist sooner.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, I’m wondering as I listen, as I listened to you and I look at these stories, and the numbers are staggering. Is it, is it just bureaucratic typical, bureaucratic stupidity? Is it that, or is it lack of funding by Gavin Newsom to, to pump these programs up? What’s happening? What’s the heart of this and, and are there any regulations that limit this wait time in California?

Brigida Santos:                   State regulators have now launched an investigation into whether the county’s long wait times violate California regulations that require patients to be treated by HMO specialists within 15 business days from the date of request, but that law applies to insurers, not to doctors and hospitals directly. So the LA County health services director says the agency really doesn’t see the state’s regulation as a goal or target. Now it’s unclear how this is going to play out. But Mike, what is clear is that it’s not just our private health care system that’s broken, but also our public healthcare system, the entire healthcare system needs to be revamped to protect the nation’s sickest and most vulnerable. That’s the bottom line.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, if it’s going on in California, you can count on the fact that it’s going on across the United States. They need more studies like this. This is a sobering study. This is, this is pretty scary when you not only hear the anecdotal information, but when you actually see the numbers, it’s, it’s, it’s a story that has to be, somebody you’ve got to get control of this, not just in LA, but all over this country. Thank you for joining me.

Brigida Santos:                   Thanks Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.