A lawsuit filed on Oct. 13 by Dr. Ben Danielson, formerly the head of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s (SCH) Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, lays out an array of allegations of racial bias at SCH, related both to Dr. Danielson’s experience of employment there and the organization’s general attitude toward minorities.
Timing is important. So it is significant that, on the precipice of Juneteenth, Seattle Children’s Hospital decided to close the Yesler location for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. This location, in the heart of Seattle’s Central District, had held on through years of gentrification as a Black community resource.
Odessa Brown, the namesake of a pediatric clinic in Seattle, would have had her birthday on April 30. She was born in 1920 and died in 1969, too young by any measure. She had leukemia, and I think it’s fair to add that racism accelerated her passing. It is just as true today as it was in the 1960s: Black women and men are more likely to have more advanced cancers at diagnosis and are more likely to die from them than white Americans with similar cancers.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Only six days left until Tuesday’s important Nov. 2 election!
Seattle’s Mayor, City Attorney, at-large City Council Pos. 9 seat, King County Executive, as well as other local city and county district races will be decided. The winners of those contests will chart the course of how the region tackles homelessness, policing, and housing affordability.
Did you get your ballot, or was it damaged in the mail? If you need help with your ballot or other questions, call 206-296-VOTE (8683).
Are you registered to vote? It’s too late to register by mail and online, but you can still register and get a ballot through Election Day, Nov. 2, by visiting the King County Elections Center,919 SW Grady Way in Renton, or a variety of voting centers in the county.
Who can register to vote in Washington? Simple, you must be:
A citizen of the United States.
A legal resident of Washington State.
At least 18 years old by election day.
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In this time of a continued reckoning, communities are watching and listening closely. What you say and what you do are noticed. Subtle and overt assertions matter. Actions and acts of omission matter. Of all the outrageous numbness that you seem to possess during this time, it is perhaps most hurtful to hear you speak about yourself as an industry leader in equity in settings like the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic community town hall.
We hear your bafflement, your confusion, when you say it is hard to come to terms with the founded allegations of racism and other biases because you are considered a leader. Maybe you truly believe your words; maybe it is more of a public-relations-based defense.
Sometimes the strategy works. There are those who deeply want to believe you are the “goodest” of the good. There are those who want to avoid the pain of confronting the truth of your actions. It would be so much more comfortable to construct a universe wherein it is somehow more valid to choose words over deeds, where it is possible to choose against knowing the harm you have done and choose, instead, to embrace the comforting words “industry leader in equity.”
About 100 employees from Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) participated in a one-hour silent protest in front of the hospital’s main campus on Sandpoint Way on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at noon. Smaller protests occurred concurrently at the Autism Center, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), and the CURE center. The protests follow the conclusion of an independent assessment into systemic and interpersonal racism at the hospital, conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Covington & Burling firm, and the initial decision by SCH to only release a summary of the recommendations from the investigation, not the findings. Following public outcry, SCH’s board of trustees released 11 main findings and detailed recommendations earlier this week, but community members say much more needs to be done.
The investigation was originally prompted after Dr. Ben Danielson, medical director at OBCC, resigned last November. After 20-plus years of service, Danielson cited multiple instances of racism he either experienced or witnessed as a medical provider at the hospital.
On Aug. 9, CEO Jeff Sperring and board chair Susan Betcher each released letters disclosing the summary of 11 findings statements as well as the detailed recommendations of Covington & Burling’s report. Yet despite releasing new pertinent information from the report, multiple calls for the resignation of the CEO and board chair are still being made based both on the premise that information was initially withheld to begin with under the guise of confidentiality and the stark findings of the investigation. Washington State BLM Alliance recently started a petition demanding both the resignation of SCH leadership as well as the release of the full report written by Covington & Burling.
After six months of investigation into systemic and interpersonal racism at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), followed by considerable community backlash when findings from the assessment weren’t originally released, SCH’s board of trustees has now unanimously voted to publicly disclose Covington & Burling’s 11 finding statements as well as more detailed recommendations made in the report.
The Covington & Burling law firm and former Attorney General Eric Holder were hired by SCH to do an independent assessment on the hospital after racial allegations were publicly raised by Dr. Ben Danielson’s resignation last November. An assessment committee, composed of three members of SCH’s board and four community members, were also brought in to oversee the independent investigation. The assessment committee read the entire report but signed nondisclosure agreements (NDA) which prevented them from divulging any information on its contents.
Last week, CEO Jeff Sperring and board chair Susan Betcher furnished only a summary of recommendations made by Covington’s report and declared an action plan to be delivered by Sept. 1. Details of the recommendations were omitted as well as the findings from the report.
But SCH employees posted a petition demanding for the findings to be released in full, public apologies to Dr. Danielson and the patients, families, workforce, and SCH community for harm done, and resignations of the CEO and board chair.
On the morning of Aug. 2, Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance (WA BLM Alliance) sent a letter to Susan Betcher, chair of the Board of Directors at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), demanding the immediate release of findings from Covington & Burling’s investigation of systemic racism within the hospital.
“We provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.” —Seattle Children’s Hospital mission statement
Every hospital, including Seattle Children’s, has one: a policy against obstruction of patient care.
Seventeen years ago, Children’s policy was a single page, with bullet points outlining violent and intimidating behavior against hospital employees by patients’ family members or friends.
The policy is a warning: our institution has the power to remove and ban you from this hospital if we feel your behavior interferes with our care. The document requires a signature of acknowledgement, which the hospital can use to invoke internal security or external police, child welfare, and the court system. The message was clear: you are here receiving life-saving — or not — care. On their terms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States 37th in overall quality of healthcare, right behind Dominica, Denmark, and Chile, but way behind our northern neighbor Canada, which ranked 27th, and our European ally, France, which ranked number 1. More babies per capita die (5.9 per 1000 births) within days (or weeks) of being born in the United States than in Iceland, Finland, and Japan combined. In Seattle, there are persistent racial disparities in healthcare – 6.9 Black babies die per 1,000 births compared to 4.3 deaths per 1,000 white babies born, and gaining access to quality healthcare informed by facts, not racist controlling narratives, is almost impossible. In a recent survey of medical students, 50% believed that Blacks experienced less pain than whites because of biological differences.
Black physicians are less likely to hold these kinds of biases, but there are only 45,534 active physicians identified as Black in the United States compared to 516,304 white physicians, 157,025 Asian physicians, and 53,526 Hispanic physicians, so finding a Black physician or medical institution operating with an anti-racist lens might be impossible for most of the 46 million Blacks in America. This is why Dr. Ben Danielson’s resignation as the medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic is so significant to Seattle’s Black community.