Discrimination At 3 Major NYC Hospitals

Published on July 21, 2009, 2:48 pm
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Last night, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360˚, Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired an investigative news segment on racial discrimination that results from separate and unequal care provided by private, voluntary teaching hospitals in New York City.

The story focused on a civil rights complaint filed with the Office of the Attorney General of New York State in June 2008 by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) on behalf of Bronx Health REACH, a coalition of over 40 community and faith-based organizations led by the Institute for Family Health. He reported on multiple visits made to New York to interview faith leaders, patients, and REACH and NYLPI staff to bring the issue of separate and unequal care to light.

Dr. Gupta interviewed numerous patients about their experiences with the health care system who stated that they were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Rev. Gary Spears shared a compelling story of his experience of seeing doctor after doctor who failed to recognize that a serious infection in his finger and extreme weight loss was caused by his undiagnosed diabetes.

He also interviewed Neil Calman, MD, president of the Institute for Family Health, and principal investigator for Bronx Health REACH. Dr. Calman indicated that a study performed by REACH Staff found pervasive segregation of care, based on the insurance status of people in the community. “There are 16 times more Blacks and Latinos who are on Medicicaid or uninsured than Whites in New York – evidence that  there is a close link between race, ethnicity and insurance status. This results in the systematic channeling of whites and minorities into different systems of care that are not of equal quality or equally accessible.”

The complaint documents specific findings of system-wide policies and practices contributing to the segregation of care,” remarkedNisha Agarwal, Director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “This is in direct conflict with federal, state and local civil rights laws, which state that patients have a right to receive treatment without discrimination as to race, color, national origin and source of payment.”

The 2008 complaint was filed against Montefiore, New York-Presbyterian and Mt. Sinai Medical Centers and documents how these hospitals operate two separate and unequal systems of outpatient care within the same health facility, in violation of federal, state and local civil rights laws.  The complaint alleges that patients with private insurance who need specialist care are referred to faculty practice offices, but Medicaid patients are systematically referred to the hospital’s clinics, where they receive more fragmented care from less experienced doctors.

Attached please find a copy of NYLPI’s letter to the Attorney General’s Office. For more information go to http://neilcalman.blogspot.com, http://institute2000.org/bhr/resource/presentations_and_papers or http://www.institute2000.org/bhr/resource/publications.

Bronx Health REACH, established in 1999, includes 40 community and faith-based organizations dedicated to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in health outcomes. In addition to its advocacy efforts, the group sponsors community health promotion and disease prevention programs, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and the NYS Department of Health REACH is a project of the Institute for Family Health, a nonprofit organization that operates health centers and trains health professionals to work in urban, medically underserved communities in New York State. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) is a nonprofit civil rights law firm that works with communities to advocate for social justice through community organizing, litigation policy advocacy and public education. NYLPI helps underrepresented people develop legal strategies to serve their vision for themselves and their communities.

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