Letter to the editor: Porter steps up against racism
Racism is a public health issue. Black communities and other communities of color have higher rates of newborn death, childhood illness, women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, and shorter lives with higher rates of severe illness. Porter, as a healthcare organization, has an imperative to address the racism and inequities built into our system.
As an organization, we believe there is more we can do to be intentionally inclusive and equitable. We acknowledge that we can do more to make sure all members of our community feel welcome and have equal access to our services. We are committed to ensuring all members of our community feel seen, heard and supported.
Porter Medical Center, alongside our partner hospitals within the UVM Health Network, has been working diligently for more than a year to focus our energy on understanding how to create a more equitable and inclusive organization for all members of our community. Dr. John Brumsted, CEO of UVM Health Network, affirmed the strategic imperative of this work:
“We are committed to creating a culture that is diverse, equitable and inclusive for our employees, patients and communities we serve. This will be embedded in all strategies and tactics and will ultimately be a part of who we are as an organization. Our dedication to this task carries even greater urgency because we are a health care institution. We acknowledge the persistent and appalling racial disparities in health care outcomes, and we know that stamping out systemic racism is not only the right thing to do; it’s also at the core of our mission to provide high quality, affordable, accessible care to our communities.”
We are joining many organizations throughout Vermont and nationally in displaying the “Black Lives Matter” Flag. The flag signifies our commitment to creating a just, equitable, and empathetic world, and is a symbol of inclusion, especially for our employees, patients and residents of color. The displaying of the BLM flag does not undermine or diminish the value of each person, rather it affirms the value of those people within our society who have historically suffered uniquely from systemic racism. Yet, it is only one symbolic step; we also acknowledge that we have so much more work to do to identify and address bias and inequity within our organization so that we can truly fulfill our commitment to truly be inclusive and welcoming for all.
Our plan is to fly this flag in front of our hospital beginning this month to honor the history and lives of those who have been engaged in this work for decades, and to continue to fly the flag beyond February as an acknowledgement that this work must continue. We will also create a permanent display in the vestibule that welcomes members of our community to our emergency department and other clinical areas.
Why should Porter, as a health care organization, take such a visible stand against racism? According to a Nov. 11, 2020, post on the blog of the Urban Institute, “Evidence shows racism is the main determinant of disparities in death and disease between Black and white people. Further, Black people ages 18 to 34 have higher mortality rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death. And since 2014, research has shown that the life expectancy for Black Americans is four years shorter than the expectancy for white Americans.”
We recognize that this work is complex, challenging and uncomfortable, but it also is essential work if we are to truly fulfill our community mission to improve the health of our community. We encourage an open dialogue regarding this important work and welcome your thoughts and suggestions as members of our community.
Thomas R. Thompson, president and chief operating officer, and Anna L Benvenuto, chief medical officer
Porter Medical Center
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