Insight News

Feb 06th

Victimized by public health care providers

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Healthcare institutions in Minnesota continue to draw fire from minorities accusing them of entrenched racial discrimination. Healthcare institutions in Minnesota continue to draw fire from minorities accusing them of entrenched racial discrimination.

A while back, the Red Door Clinic in Minneapolis was accused of providing sexual health care to minorities in a manner not far removed from the infamous Tuskegee Experiment in which syphilitic African American men were prescribed placebos so doctors working for the U. S. government could study the progress of the disease. At Red Door, minority men and women seeking diagnosis (and treatment, if necessary) for sexually transmitted diseases were denied the benefit of being able to interact with minority staff. Not only did the The Red Door Clinic not have minority staff, but the Black and Hispanic health investigators assigned there by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) were being pulled out. The climate at Red Door, which those investigators attested was hostile toward non-Whites, made it extremely difficult — especially once the investigators were reassigned — for minorities to feel comfortable going there with concerns about their sexual health. Maintaining a de facto Whites only establishment, Red Door didn’t overtly leave infected persons untreated: still, its callousness toward those persons clearly had the same effect. The Minnesota Department of Health’s installed European American Kevin Sitter to advise and train three African American community-based sexual health agencies for women (African American Aids Task Force, Community Fitness Today and Wake Up, We’re Affected in Minneapolis). The obvious question was then and is now: in a community whose health field scarcely lacks accomplished professionals of color, why did the MDH chose Sitter?

The MDH remains under constant attack for failing to appropriately and adequately utilize the states multi-billion dollar settlement with the tobacco industry. Specifically, it’s accused of ignoring minority media — and thereby, minority youth — in its high profile, anti-smoking campaign.

Last year, two Black HCMC security guards filed a lawsuit against the hospital, charging racial discrimination. Wednesday, Nov. 20th, at least eight current and former employees of HCMC announced that they’d just filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county, claiming the hospital supports an environment that is hostile toward Black workers and patients. According to the complaint, HCMC’s environment “tolerates and condones racial slurs, intimidation and insults directed at its Black employees, as well as Black patients.”

Antoinette Coffey, 50, of Minneapolis, an HCMC office specialist, said a White co-worker told her she “would look good with a bone in my nose.” Coffey, who has worked at the hospital since 1986, said she complained about the comments, but to the best of her knowledge, the co-worker was never disciplined.

Idrissen Brown, 20, of Minneapolis, a clerk in the health information management department, said a White co-worker has repeatedly told him that his cornrow hair style makes him look like a “crackhead.” Brown says his complaints about the comments have come to absolutely no avail. Additionally, complaints assert that the hospital discriminates against its Black employees with “nearly insurmountable barriers” to gain job promotions, the lawsuit states.

“I’m aware of some individual cases, but I’m not aware of blanket discrimination,” says Jeff Spartz, HCMC’s chief executive officer. He claims, “I don’t believe it exists at this institution.” Let’s see if we have this straight: he knew about individual cases, yet was not prompted to follow-up by looking into the conditions that precipitated this lawsuit. Is it simply an honest case of his being woefully short-sighted yet still capable as CEO of an institution U.S. News and World Report has repeatedly named one of America’s Best Hospitals? Hard to believe.


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