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Health Care

Health Care Providers Worry About Racial Injustice And Unequal Medical Treatment for Black Patients

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1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
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Marthany Jean-Baptiste, right, a registered nurse at a medical center in West Palm Beach, and a member of Florida's largest healthcare union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, gathered for a protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

Health care workers in South Florida took part in vigils and demonstrations last week and over the weekend to express concern over deaths of Black Americans, in particular, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Some providers told WLRN that they also worry about the unequal health care provided to Black patients.
At the Memorial Hospital in Miramar, Dr. Tondra Anderson-Rhodes pointed out that to health care workers, all lives have equal importance — and that includes Black lives. She's the hospital's chief medical officer.

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"As a Black female, a Black woman, as a Black mother, [we] have to be able to say and can not be silenced that Black lives do matter," she said. Anderson-Rhodes joined hospital colleagues who kneeled to protest the treatment of Black people by police. 

"For those who can spare another 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we want to take this time to kneel as health care workers in remembrance of George Floyd," Dr. Minaba Wariboko said at the event. 

Marthany Jean-Baptiste kneeled too, but at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach. She's a registered nurse there, and a member of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Union. 

Jean-Baptiste says Black people don't get equal treatment at hospitals, either.

"Most African-Americans don't have private insurance," Jean-Baptiste said. "Most of them have Medicaid or they're not able to have insurance, and so that predicts also what kind of treatment they receive at hospitals."

Elizabeth Mauvais-Jazon, a nurse at UHealth Tower, part of the University of Miami Health System, is also a member of the union. She said she sees many Black patients who come to the hospital with serious health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. 

"Us Black women, we miss out a lot on preventative care — colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears," she said. "If you don't have health insurance you have to pay out of pocket, and a lot of us don't have the financial capacity to afford that." 

Jean-Baptiste in West Palm Beach said right now personally, she's juggling concerns over racial injustice and the new coronavirus, including anxiety about getting COVID-19 and passing it on to her 2-year-old daughter. She continues to see a stream of patients who test positive continue coming in for care at the hospital.