Physician examines institutional racism in hospitals

A physician's first-hand account of his experience with institutional racism reveals the need for hospital leaders to improve policies and practices to stamp out this wide-spread, but often ignored, problem.

Nadeem Moghal, M.D., now the associate medical director at George Eliot Hospital in the United Kingdom, wrote in the British Medical Journal about his own personal and professional struggles with institutional racism at a previous hospital and how the practice hinders an organization's equity and compromises patients' well-being.

Moghal described the case of parents informing the organization that they would only allow white doctors to treat their child. The hospital agreed to their request for more than a year on the grounds of clinical need. But when the child became acutely ill, the white doctor assigned to the patient had to check to make sure ethnic staff weren't assigned to the assessment unit that day and could come in contact with the child, Moghal said. 

Staff outside the child's specialty team were troubled--"this is the first time in my professional career I have felt defined and judged by my ethnic origin rather than my professional capability," Moghal wrote.

After Moghal and other staff requested the hospital reverse the decision, there was a board inquiry into the matter, and the medical director ultimately told the family that staff of all ethnicities would provide care to their child from then on. The family agreed. 

But Moghal said the hospital's original decision to enable the racist parents to determine who cared for their child based on ethnicity and skin color showcased institutional racism, even if the colleagues who allowed their choice weren't racists themselves.

Moghal wrote that organizations can quash institutional racism by standing up to racist individuals, with full support from hospital leaders, and confronting the issue immediately in order to build equitable organizations.

Moghal's experience with insitutional racism isn't an isolated case. In 2013, nurses filed federal lawsuits against Hurley Medical Center in Michigan after claiming the hospital banned African-American nurses from caring for a newborn infant at the demand of the baby's swastika-tattooed father, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Hurley President Melany Guvalic denied the nurses' claims, saying the father's request eventually was denied.

To learn more:
- here's the piece in BMJ