Lawsuit accuses another Michigan hospital of honoring patients' requests for white-only caregivers

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Six employees filed a lawsuit against Zeeland, Mich.-based Providence Christian Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, accusing the medical center of honoring patients' requests for white-only caregivers, according to The Detroit Free Press.  

The lawsuit, filed the week of April 16 by current and former employees, accuses the medical center of race discrimination, race harassment and retaliation.

The employees claim the medical center allowed numerous patients to choose their caregiver by race over the last several years. 

"It's embarrassing and humiliating and it shouldn't be tolerated," said attorney Julie Gafkay, who represents the plaintiffs, the African American Certified Nursing Assistants, according to the report.

The lawsuit says some patients requested not to have African Americans caring for them and the facility granted these requests, outlining it in the patient's care plan or failing to address it. When the patient's request was not met, employees were called racist names by the patient.

"We're not going to change a patient's mind necessarily and it's not the employees or the facilities job to do that," Ms. Gafkay said. "But it is their job to not grant a request of care based on race. If the patient doesn't want to be cared for, even when the facility says you cannot dictate your care based on race, then that patient has the absolute right to go somewhere else."

Providence Christian Healthcare told The Detroit Free Press they could not comment on the allegations since it is a pending lawsuit, but denied reassigning staff members due to race.

"Providence takes its employees' concerns about their working environment very seriously as it recognizes the importance of providing a positive workplace for its employees and other healthcare providers assisting its residents," Sheila King, a spokesperson for Providence, told The Detroit Free Press.

This is not the first lawsuit filed against a Michigan hospital claiming racial discrimination. In October 2017, a black nurse filed a lawsuit against Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health claiming the health system granted a patient's request for no black caregivers.

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