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Analysis

Hospital Groups Speak Out About George Floyd Killing, Nationwide Protests

By Jack O'Brien  
   June 03, 2020

The statements come less than a week after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota issued a letter about structural racism cosigned by nearly 30 CEOs.

Several major hospital groups have issued statements this week addressing the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests against police brutality that have emerged nationwide.

On Memorial Day, Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed him and pinned his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video of the incident went viral and subsequently led to Chauvin's arrest on third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges as well as the firing of three other officers involved in the detention.

The killing of Floyd has sparked protests against police brutality across the country and prompted healthcare leaders to discuss the impact of racial inequality in American society. 

Related: Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier: George Floyd 'Could Be Me'

On Monday, both the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released statements condemning racism and discussing the "unrest in America."'

Rick Pollack, CEO of AHA, said in a statement that the ongoing protests, "give voice to deep-seated frustration and hurt and the very real need for systemic change."

"As places of healing, hospitals have an important role to play in the wellbeing of their communities," Pollack said. "As we've seen in the pandemic, communities of color have been disproportionately affected, both in infection rates and economic impact. The AHA's vision is of a society of healthy communities, where ALL individuals reach their highest potential for health. These words guide what we do every day. To achieve that vision, we must address racial, ethnic and cultural inequities, including those in healthcare, that are everyday realities for far too many individuals. While progress has been made, we have so much more work to do."

Related: Nurses, Still Fighting Coronavirus, Serve as Medics at George Floyd Protests

Similarly, David J. Skorton, MD, CEO of AAMC, and David A. Acosta, MD, chief diversity and inclusion officer of AAMC, expressed their shock at the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

In a statement, the AAMC leaders called racism, "an ugly, destructive mark on America’s soul" and said it has negatively impacted, "the health of people in our cities large and small, and in rural America."

"Our country must unite to combat and dismantle racism and discrimination in all its forms and denounce race-related violence, including police brutality. Enough is enough," Skorton and Acosta said. "As healers and educators of the next generation of physicians and scientists, the people of America's medical schools and teaching hospitals bear the responsibility to ameliorate factors that negatively affect the health of our patients and communities: poverty, education, access to transportation, healthy food, and healthcare."

Related: Will Protests Set Off a Second Viral Wave?

On Wednesday, Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, CEO of America's Essential Hospitals released a statement deploring the deaths of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery as well as other "unjustified, police-involved killings." He also said that racism is an "urgent public health" threat that requires a response from healthcare organizations and professionals.

"The pervasive racial and ethnic inequities plainly evident in these events are the same as those behind poor health outcomes in communities of color—including the unconscionable rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths we see among African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities," Siegel said. "Essential hospitals face this reality every day, as they care for disadvantaged communities plagued by social and economic disparities rooted in a history of systemic racism. These inequities manifest as chronic conditions, traumatic injuries, substance use disorders, and other profound challenges for marginalized people. But at their core, they are a legacy of profound injustice and racism."

The statements come less than a week after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota issued a letter about Floyd's death as well as structural racism that was cosigned by nearly 30 CEOs from the Gopher State.

"The repeated occurrence of racially charged events of this nature are contrary to the close-knit employment and residential communities we desire to have in Minnesota," the letter read. "We are committed to taking steps to eliminate the repeat of events like this in our society and committed to investing in substantive change in our organizations and the communities we serve to address racial inequities and social justice. Change has to start today, and it needs to start with us."

Related: Minnesota BCBS CEO Talks Transformation, Entering Care Delivery

Additionally, Minnetonka, Minnesota–based UnitedHealth Group committed more than $10 million and 25,000 employee volunteer hours to businesses in the Twin Cities.

"George Floyd's death is an unspeakable tragedy. Communities all across America are struggling to make sense of what's happened and how we as a society pull together to move forward, heal, learn and grow," David S. Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement. "The 325,000 people of UnitedHealth Group remain steadfast in our commitment to not only build a culture of inclusivity and diversity within our own organization, but to ensure our actions help create a more equitable society for the people we serve.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Orlando, Florida – May 30, 2020: Protesters gathered in downtown Orlando to show support for George Floyd. George Floyd died after a confrontation while in police custody. / Editorial credit: Ira Bostic / Shutterstock.com


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