A Michigan hospital has granted a settlement after a Black nurse alleged she was told by her supervisors not to care for a white baby at the request of the child’s neo-Nazi-affiliated father. The situation has opened a can of worms about the so-called “open secret” of patients refusing treatment from medical professionals of color.
According to reports, Black nurse Tanya Battle claims that, on Oct. 31 of last year, she was working the late shift at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., when a white man walked into a room where she was caring for a white newborn. Battle, who has worked at the hospital for over 25 years, asked to see the man’s identification and in turn he asked to speak to her supervisor.
When the man spoke to Battle’s supervising nurse, who is white, he revealed a swastika tattoo and demanded that no Blacks care for his child. Battle’s supervisor informed her about the father’s request and told her it was granted. On the file for the baby, a note read “No African American nurse to take care of baby” for all other employees to see.
“I didn’t even know how to react,” Battle said in one report. “What flashed in my mind is, ‘What’s next? A note on the water fountain that says ‘No Blacks?’ Or a note on the bathroom that says ‘No Blacks’?”
Last month, Battle filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) along with a lawsuit for emotional stress and the damages to her reputation.
As a result of the situation, several civil rights groups supporting Battle got involved, including the NAACP and the Michigan branch of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which held protests outside of the hospital.
In a statement, the hospital initially did not speak about the incident because of pending litigation. However, officials from the hospital originally refuted that the father’s request was denied. Some reports indicate that the hospital was scared for the staff’s safety when the father revealed his swastika tattoo.
“The father was informed that his request could not be granted, and as a result, all nurses remained available to care for his baby,” Hurley CEO Melany Gavulic said in a statement. “We appreciate the community’s concern and involvement today, as we publicly clarify the facts of this case. The medical center looks forward to a quick and amicable resolution.”
On Friday, the hospital announced that it had settled with Battle and issued an apology and stated that the medical center does not condone any form of discrimination.
“We regret that our policies were not well enough understood and followed, causing the perception that Hurley condoned this conduct,” Gavulic said at a press conference that Battle attended.
A 2007 study by the University of Michigan Health System revealed that patients make requests similar to the one made at Hurley and the requests granted. One-third of doctors in the survey reportedly said that patients believe they will get better care from someone who is their same race and demographic.