Seattle Children's CEO, board chair face calls to resign

Seattle Children's Hospital employees and the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance are calling for the resignation of the hospital's CEO and board chair following an investigation into systemic racism at the hospital. 

The investigation was prompted by Ben Danielson, MD, who cited institutional racism as his reason for resigning as the medical director of one of the hospital's clinics last year. He resigned in November after more than 20 years leading the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic in Seattle. In January, Seattle Children's hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Covington & Burling, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, to investigate equity, diversity and racism at the hospital. 

The hospital announced July 30 that the investigation had concluded, and the board adopted the recommendations made by Mr. Holder and the law firm. Seattle Children's initially released a summary of the recommendations, which include leading the institution with purpose and decisive action, hiring to increase and sustain diversity and making and sustaining an unequivocal commitment to antiracism and equity, diversity and inclusion.

Seattle Children's employees, patient families and prominent local figures who oversaw the independent review immediately began demanding more transparency and calling for the hospital to release the findings in full. More than 100 hospital workers signed a petition demanding the findings be released and calling for the resignations of CEO Jeff Sperring, MD, and board chair Susan Betcher. 

On Aug. 9, the hospital announced that the board voted unanimously to release the findings and detailed recommendations. 

"From a place of great humility, we thank everyone who spoke up," Ms. Betcher wrote in a letter to the community. "We heard from many of you that our initial adoption and release of the summary of recommendations did not provide the clarity you expected and instead added to the pain our community is feeling/experiencing. For that, we profoundly apologize."

After the findings were released, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance called for Dr. Sperring and Ms. Betcher to resign. 

"The official findings are clear and damning; hospital leadership has been aware of the insidious nature of anti-Black racism and explicit bias and done nothing," Sakara Remmu, lead strategist of the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance, said in a news release. "Nothing to protect staff. Nothing to protect patients. Nothing to hold offenders accountable."

In her letter, Ms. Betcher laid out a plan to address the issues in the report and acknowledged that the hospital and its board have "much work to do." 

She said the hospital has created an internal task force that will create a plan to address the recommendations and findings. 

"The board will regularly monitor progress and hold our CEO and leadership accountable for executing the plan," Ms. Betcher said. "We take responsibility for failing to address racial disparities in health equity and workforce equity with greater urgency, and we steadfastly reaffirm Seattle Children's commitment to becoming an antiracist organization."

A hospital employee who spoke to the South Seattle Emerald on the condition of anonymity said workers had "mixed emotions" after reading the findings. 

"Having to fight for every little thing is taking an enormous toll on our workforce, contributing to our burnout and taking away energy we could be devoting towards the patients and families we serve. We will always fight for our patients, families, and ourselves but we are now forced to reconsider whether this is even possible at Seattle Children's under the current hospital leadership," the employee said.

Read the full article from the Emerald here




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