Hospitals navigate employee political stances

In the intersection of healthcare and politics, a complex and increasingly prevalent phenomenon is emerging — hospitals and health systems taking disciplinary actions, including terminations and reprimands, against employees due to their stances on political issues. 

A physician was placed on leave at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine for anti-Palestinian social media posts on X, formerly Twitter, following the Hamas attack on Israel.

Similarly, at New York City-based NYU Langone Health, two physicians were suspended for posts on X and Instagram relating to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, the former director of NYU Langone Health's cancer center, who was involved in the incident, is now suing the system over his firing. He alleges that NYU Langone Health's suspension and termination damaged his reputation and harmed his employment opportunities. 

His complaint seeks trial by jury and at least $500,000 in damages.

This comes at a time where hospitals and health systems are now being tasked with navigating a delicate balance between maintaining a neutral healthcare environment and addressing the diverse and often divisive political landscape. 

According to Paul Matsen, chief marketing and communications officer of Cleveland Clinic, this is due in part as patients' expectations of brands and organizations are shifting. 

"Organizations, whether that be for-profit businesses or nonprofit health systems, are looked to for responses on complex issues," he said. "And I would say that was something that wasn't necessarily a focus for chief marketing officers or organizations years ago."

Getting patients in the door now requires health systems to address issues such as reproductive rights, social justice and gun violence, Mr. Matsen said. 

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