• Fri, Feb 15 2013

Father Makes Charming Request Of Neonatal Hospital Staff: Don’t Let African Americans Care For My Newborn

shutterstock_91905104Here is some super offensive racism to start your Friday morning off. A nurse in Flint, Michigan is accusing Hurley Medical Center of race discrimination and is seeking damages. Last October a nurse, who had worked at the hospital for 25 years, was caring for a newborn baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. Now, one would think that if your baby needs intensive care, you would want a nurse with a lot of experience, and 25 years seems like a long time, and one would also assume that a nurse that had worked for that long knew what she was doing and was probably quite good at her job. If I had a baby who needed special care I would be so thankful my child was being cared for by someone with a lot of experience. But nooo, this new father wasn’t happy with that, because the nurse caring for his child happened to be an African American, so this lovely new father made a special request to the hospital staff: “No African America Nurses To Take Care Of Baby.”

So the hospital put a nice big note on the baby’s medical chart stating this.

Yeah, in America, in the year 2013.

When the nurse, and presumably others, complained about this happy little notice the hospital removed the sign, but never assigned any other nurses of color to care for the baby.

From The Daily Mail:

A Michigan nurse is suing the hospital she works for after she was allegedly  barred from caring for a child because of her skin color. 

The nurse, Tonya Battle, claims that she was caring for a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit of Hurley Medical Center when the baby’s father asked to speak with a supervisor.

‘The father told the [nurse in charge] that he did not want and African Americans taking care of his baby,’ the lawsuit states.

During the exchange, the man allegedly pulled up his sleeve and revealed a tattoo believed to be a Swastika, according to the lawsuit. 

The baby was immediately reassigned to another nurse.

The worst part about this story is that this baby actually has to go home and be raised by this Racist McRacist asshole father. If I try super hard and try and think what was going on in this jerk’s head when he made this request I can’t even begin to fathom it, I mean, your new baby is in the NICU and instead of being all worried and concerned about the heath of your child you are instead focusing on whatever racist nonsense you have curdling in your brain. Ugh. It’s even worse that the hospital met his demands. Couldn’t a senior staff member just take the creep aside and explain very slowly to him that they don’t adhere to the KKK Manual Of Child Care?

The hospital refused to comment on the lawsuit and the nurse is still employed at the hospital. No word on whether the new baby received any tiny white bed sheets and pillowcase hoods at his baby shower.

(photo:  Everett Collection/shutterstock)

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  • Michelle

    I can see both sides of this story (neither of which are the dads of course). I am so tired of the notion that the customer is always right. They aren’t. They absolutely do not have to cave to every ridiculous request of parents just because they are seeking treatment there. Their medical requests should be respected but if it doesn’t have any chance of hurting the child and makes the staff go out of their way then sorry your request should be denied.

    On the other hand, it sounds like the father was being quite threatening in his request by showing a tattoo and probably using some colorful language. I would want my employer to protect me from crazies and I think this was their misguided way of trying to protect the nurses.

    • alice

      I’d want my employer to protect me too. And I agree with what you wrote. However, I just saw a picture of the note and it literally is as described above: a single sheet of paper attached to a clipboard that reads: “No African America Nurses To Take Care Of Baby.”

      So it’s more an issue of how the hospital managed this. Had they really felt threatened by this fuckface, they should’ve had a face-to-face meeting with all the nurses to explain their concerns. Or hell, send a memo! Don’t leave a clipboard attached to a baby like that.

      The nonchalance used in delivering this completely racist, discriminatory, absurd “demand” is the issue, i believe.

    • StephKay

      Exactly. I’m in social services, it’s our policy that the male staff don’t work at at the young women’s shelter or respond to sexual assault crisis calls (totally reasonable and not even almost the same thing as insisting on Caucasian nurses, I dont mean to imply the two are even almost equal) but we are still extremely gentle with matters like turning away a male crisis response worker who showed up for a shift he can’t take, or in the case of a shelter where sometimes a man is the best person for the job (anything from not being able to find a female maintenance worker for a broken fridge, to a client needing a male doctor to make a visit) we just make special arrangements to keep everyone safe and comfortable. We don’t just put a sign on the door saying “sorry, no Y chromosomes!”. Even more so in the nurses case this type of thing requires a ton of policy review and delicate handling no matter what action is taken, but a note on a clipboard? Jeez.

    • Andrea

      Actually, I don’t really believe that is the issue. Something tells me there would still be a lawsuit unless the hospital demanded to said racist jerk that non-white nurses care for his baby.

      I think this has zero to do with discrimination and a whole lot more to do with money.

    • msLiz506

      What? How does this have zero to do with discrimination?

    • Andrea

      The lawsuit. I think it has to do a lot more with people smelling money than actually being upset about discrimination

    • Blooming_Babies

      Zero to do with discrimination? That’s pure fantasy. If the facts are as presented it is a clear case of workplace discrimination and it’s unacceptable on every level.

    • Mdmommy

      Yes suing for discrimination based on discrimination is all about the money. I’m sure the “something” that tells you the non-white nurses still would have sued is probably something in your own racist mind.

  • Andrea

    Well that is an asshole, no question. But the hospital did what they thought was best. The note on the baby’s crib was not the best way to handle it, but what do we expect the hospital to do? Make a huge stink with dad and tell him he can take his racist attitude and sick baby somewhere else (does possibly compromising baby’s health)? Demand to dad that he change his attitude or they wouldn’t be treating his baby at all? Defy his wishes and ignore the request (demand?) and possibly open themselves up for more drama and lawsuits and possibly endanger the baby if he yanks baby out of hospital?

    I get that he was an ass, I really do. And it is possible that the hospital could have just told the nurses that this guy was a racist jerk but they are kinda bound to treat the baby so let’s just all ignore this and have white nurses care for baby in order to prevent any further problems. However, something tells me that the non-white nurses would STILL have sued the hospital even if said hospital would have tried to handle this better.

    In other words, this was really a no win situation for the institution.

    • meg

      “The note on the baby’s crib was not the best way to handle it, but what do we expect the hospital to do?”

      How about “not indulge a racist asshat”? Does that sound reasonable in 2013? If they felt threatened, they could call the police (or hospital security.) SURELY the hospital has a non-discrimination policy. Someone could have explained that to him, and if he pulls the kid from the hospital, send CPS after him.

    • Andrea

      I guess you are right; but personally I would have erred on the side of providing the best care possible to the baby. Maybe explaining to the nurses what was going on would have elicited some eye rolls and then everyone would have moved on.

    • Katie

      Keeping a helpless infant alive is more important than being right. I’m glad the hospital understands that.

    • meg

      Can we stop trotting out the “it was either play nice with his racism or THE BABY SUFFERS AND DIES IN AGONY” argument? We have no reason to believe that is a possibility. Period.

    • Andrea

      Well no, because it was a real possibility. Someone ass-hatty enough to make that kind of request would have no qualms about pulling the baby out of the hospital and endangering his life.

    • GoaG

      There’s always a possibility that someone will react violently. But, there really isn’t anything in the story to suggest that the father would do so or that he made any threats. I don’t see the need to deal in slim, made up possibilities. What is a certainty, however, is that reacting the way they did, the hospital opened themselves up to litigation.

      You seem to make a lot of definitive statements on things you aren’t knowledgable in (hospital adaminstration and procedures, CPS procedures and timing , EEOC, etc)

    • Ipsedixit

      “However, something tells me that the non-white nurses would STILL have sued the hospital…”

      So, in reality, you’re not much better than this asshole father? Thanks for clearing that up.

      The absolute correct thing to do would be to politely tell the father to shove it. Having a “non-white” nurse care for a child does not put it in danger. Hospitals should not be catering to the insane delusions of their patients or their guardians. This is not a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If the father tried to file suit, he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Perceived discrimination, however, is a different story.

    • Andrea

      I suppose, but me personally I would have erred on the side of providing the best care possible to the baby. Maybe explaining to the nurses what was going on would have elicited some eye rolls and then everyone would have moved on.

    • Katie

      Telling the father to shove it won’t hurt the father, only the baby.

    • Andrea

      It would hurt the baby if dad refused treatment and took the baby out of the hospital. Even if you got authorities involved, it may be too late for the baby.

    • Mandy

      Yeah….that doesn’t happen. You CAN’T take a child in the NICU out of even the NICU without the approval of the doctors. And, trying to do so is seen as jeopardizing the health and welfare of the child. And the Dad would be arrested if he tried. You could however tell the Dad his wish will not be fulfilled, and he is welcome to be escorted out of the building by security if he throws a fit. The care of the baby would never be jeopardized. To keep suggesting it is simply appease the Racist or kill the baby, is ridiculous.

    • whiteroses

      In some cases, hospitals can and do act in loco parentis- or in the place of parents. And you can bet that if the hospital’s first and foremost priority is to take care of its patients, then they will escort the “father” out. It’s not as easy as unplugging a bunch of wires. I don’t know how it works in other states, but in mine (at least in the hospitals I’m familiar with), you can’t even get into the NICU without signing yourself in and out. Even if you’re a child’s parent, you can’t just go in and take them out. It just doesn’t happen.

    • K.

      Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that the hospital has a legal obligation to provide the best medical care possible and they could easily argue that satisfying this guy’s racist request puts the medical care of his baby in jeopardy–which it does. If the baby went into cardiac arrest and it took 2 minutes to find an Aryan nurse to provide CPR, versus disallowing an African-American nurse to provide treatment if she happened to be the first responder, then the hospital could be liable if the child suffered brain damage. That’s extreme–but the issue is the same overall: the NICU staff needs to arrange scheduling and rotation according to medical need AND the medical expertise of their staff (I know that our hospital tries to schedule nurses so that they always have more experienced nurses on call with less experienced nurses, for example) and they have to have flexibility in that as well.

  • JulesSF

    You think the jerk used the term “African American”? I feel bad for the kid – kind of doomed.

    • SpicyCrispyPuppy

      The kid isn’t doomed. His father is a class-a asshole, no question, but a lot of people have been raised by racist parents and ended up being the exact opposite. My stepdaughter was raised by a miserable, man-hating, child-neglecting whore who got custody because her boyfriends father was buddies with the judge. My stepdaughter, however, is a wonderful, accepting, loving woman who is absolutely committed to her boyfriend and baby.

  • Katie

    I don’t think the nurse should be suing the hospital. Nothing bad actually happened to her, she has zero damages. What were they supposed to do? Throw the guy and his baby out and let it die?
    The hospital was confronted with an insane man who is hateful enough to get a swastika tattooed on him. They did what they needed to do to get the baby medical care without his batshit crazy father going psycho and possibly killing people.
    That poor kid needs all the help he can get with a parent like that.

    • Lawcat

      You don’t have to have damages to sue for discrimination.

      What were they supposed to do? Tell the guy to deal with it. You don’t have to discharge a sick child, but you also don’t have to appease the ridiculous requests of parents. As someone above said, they could have also told the father such a request could put his child in danger. If a child has an emergency, precious time could be lost trying to find a doctor or nurse that fits his criteria, rather than the nurses that were already there.

    • Andrea

      And if the father demands to take the baby out? I’m sure the hospital can get authorities involved and remove the baby from the dad’s care, but those things take time and it might be too late.

      Personally, if I were the hospital administrator I would just explain to the nurses that dad is douchebag, but we are bound to provide care and just let’s do this and move on.

      The hospital didn’t fire the nurse, it didn’t demote the nurse, it didn’t take the nurse out of shift. There was no loss of wages, no loss of privileges, no loss of promotions or advancements. They simply told her not to care for that particular baby. Yes the father was an ass, but the hospital took the path of least resistance and did what it had to do to save that baby’s life. Telling the dad to shove his attitude where the sun don’t shine wouldn’t have solve a damn thing and could have possibly endangered the baby’s life.

      But yeah. Better let the baby die rather than offend someone. This is 2013 and if people don’t like it, their kids can just die.

    • K.

      It sounds rather hyperbolic to say that the hospital had a choice between appeasing the father and letting the baby die. Reading about the chain of events doesn’t suggest that the father threatened to remove the child, and if he had threatened it, I’m pretty sure the hospital could have gotten child services involved since doing so would have jeopardized the life of a child for no reason. I’m not saying that route would necessarily be the one to take; I am saying that by suggesting the options were appease father OR let baby die isn’t accurate.

      I imagine that there is a procedure for when a patient requests a change in treatment regarding the staff, so one question that hasn’t been answered in the media is whether or not the staff followed that procedure when it came to this particular nurse and this particular request. She could have grounds for a suit if they didn’t.

    • Lawcat

      Oh, please. Spare me the hyperbolic diarrhea. The baby was not in any danger by having a non white nurse care for him/her. The baby would not be in any danger had they told the father that he would have to deal with it. If the staff felt threatened, they could alert security or bar him from entering the facility if he blew a gasket. If they thought dad was a threat to the child, they can get CPO involved in little time, especially if there is an imminent threat to the child’s well being.

      It’s not like the hospital had to choose between discrimination and letting the child die a slow painful. That’s incredibly idiotic. It must be hard living in such a black and white – but by your other posts, obviously most white! – world.

    • Katia

      I don’t have a solution for the situation but I feel its more than hurt feelings even if she “lost nothing” I would have a very negative feeling at work afterwards if this happened to me

  • K.

    To say nothing about how the hospital handled it, Neo-Nazi or not, how is requesting that an African-American nurse not have access to your child any different from me walking in and saying, “I don’t want my child cared for by any blonde nurses because everyone knows they’re dumber than brunettes.”

    It WAS racist; however, calling it as such, in this case, seems to strangely legitimate it simply by virtue of the ability to classify it. It’s just as arbitrary and offensive and ridiculous as what I wrote above. The hospital should have stood by their employee if they were confident enough to hire her in the first place.

    • meg

      Preach.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      The difference is that employers, like hospitals, are not allowed by federal law to limit or change job descriptions and activities based on race. It’s not the father’s racist mess that is important in this situation (there will always be idiots like that), it’s that the hospital has no defense to workplace discrimination based on “customer’s racist demands”.

  • SpicyCrispyPuppy

    The dad’s a dick. That’s just a fact. He was probably raised by a dick. But the fact is, parents or patients can refuse a nurse for any reason. If she’s pushy, if she’s too nice, if she has red hair. The hospital accepts the request as long as it’s not proven to be detrimental to the health of the patient, in which case they’d appeal a judge to issue a Guardian Ad Litem. The hospital didn’t fire the nurse, the administrators didn’t make the call. They did what they’re supposed to do and followed the request of the patients parent. There is no loss of wages, and no way the hospital should be on the hook to pay off a nurse who had a shitty patient experience.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      Disagree. An employer cannot limit an employee’s duties based on race, and when the hospital confirmed the man’s racist request by having a meeting and putting it in writing, they limited job duties based on race. What if it happened again? What if word got out that this hospital keeps black people away from precious Aryan babies? The issue isn’t that the parent has the right to have some people excluded from caring for their kids, it’s that there is a federal law that protects classes of people from being treated unequally by their employers because it isn’t fair and it isn’t right.
      If you are a jerk and I don’t want you to touch my kid because you suck, that’s fine (though possibly impracticable for a hospital care situation) because jerks are not a specifically enumerated class protected by federal or state law. If you want to go to one of the MAJORITY of states that don’t have equal protections for gay people, you could say “I don’t want any faggots touching my kids” and the hospital could say “We don’t want any faggots working here, everyone who seems gay, get out” and it would be legal. (Please pardon the F word, it is used for effect here). But race, sex, and other specific classes are protected from an employer treating them differently.

  • BK

    I don’t really understand why she’s suing. The father of the baby had a particular (and horribly offensive) demand, and the hospital saw to it. How is asking that his child be handled by white nurses only different from saying that they’re gluten free or vegan? I understand that in 2013 his request is disgustingly racist – and I think it’s sickening that he thinks that way – but he made a special request and the hospital honored it. Although I wholeheartedly disagree with his opinions, he unfortunately is entitled to them, and we’ve created a society in which parental opinions are law.

    • K.

      Actually, we haven’t made parental opinions law. For example, if a child is in a car accident and needs an emergency blood transfusion which the parents refuse on religious objections, the hospital can (and many have) get an emergency court injunction to perform the surgery in the interest of the child. A hospital can also act upon the interest of a child if they are brought in and there is a suspicion of abuse.

      I’m kind of amazed that you could say you totally understand racism and then write this sentence: “how can asking that a child be handled by white nurses only be different from saying they’re gluten-free or vegan?” …Seriously?? You can’t compare the father’s request to requesting gluten free or vegan because asking for a child’s dietary preferences/restrictions to be observed is not discriminatory. The nurse is a working professional. Not a food option.

    • AlexMMR

      I take it you’ve never had a child in the NICU. When you do, the staff bends over backwards to ensure you, over and over again, that your wishes will be honored in terms of your baby. That what you say goes, period, end of discussion, you are the parent and your baby gets what you want your baby to get no matter what your reasoning is, or whether you have no reason at all. If you don’t like a certain caretaker for whatever reason, someone else that you do like will be assigned.

      They can’t insist on this and then turn around and say “Oh, nope, sorry, I disagree with your opinion on this matter and therefore this request won’t be honored.” No one gets to make decisions regarding the validity of the parents requests because how reasonable a request may be is subjective. Therefore, unless the request is medically harmful to the baby, the answer to any request is a blanket “yes”. 99.9% of our culture (I hope) finds his request completely whackadoodle and abhorrent. However, since his request was not medically harmful to the baby (in the case of an emergency, his request would have gone out the window), they unfortunately had to abide by it.

      The father was wrong and pure asshole, the hospital however, was not.

    • K.

      Actually, my son WAS in the NICU, for 4 days. And while the nurses were lovely, the experience you had was not the same as I had. I was never told that my wishes would be honored at all costs and I was certainly never told that “whatever I said goes, period.” Maybe–maybe–that is a difference that occurs from hospital to hospital and it also could relate to the severity of the health problems that relate to the baby being in the NICU.

      But I doubt it. I can’t imagine that a hospital would ever make a policy of doing that because parents are not doctors and a hospital can be held liable if they make decisions that are not in the best interest of the health of the child. The child’s welfare is the hospital’s primary responsibility, not the parents’ wishes. Obviously, this is an ethical gray-area, but I would be very, very surprised if a hospital decided, as a stated policy, that they were just going to follow parent requests at all times.

      So, to put this in terms of the NICU, if you have a baby that needs to be in a sterile environment because they are at risk for life-threatening infections, I’m not convinced that the mother can say, “It’s my baby and I want to touch him and I’m not wearing a mask or sterile dressings or gloves. I refuse, and I demand to hold my newborn” and the staff would just allow it. I would assume that the staff would have some kind of procedural response for that–ie, before allowing her to do that, I imagine that at the very least, the staff would first tell the mother that they would have to consult with the attending pediatrician and if the pediatrician said no and the mother still insisted, maybe then the pediatrician would then speak to the mother face-to-face, and maybe, there might be some kind of legal waiver involved–and that’s IF they allowed her request because, I like I said, the NICU’s patient is the baby, and their first responsibility is the baby, not the parents. If the hospital and attending pediatrician honored such a mother’s request and the baby caught pneumonia and died, they could be sued.

      Now you’re right that any patient, not just NICU parents, can usually request a change in personnel care, but–and this was my point below–it usually involves some protocol. Usually, if a patient wants a different nurse, then the patient first talks to the supervisor and it’s up to the SUPERVISOR, not the patient, whether the request will be honored and this is because the supervisor has to determine what’s possible in terms of scheduling, staff availability, and whether or not a change could affect medical continuity in the treatment for that patient. Usually, it’s fine and nurses are switched all the time, but I wouldn’t assume that whatever the patient says goes–that to me just doesn’t make any logical sense and I WOULD assume that requests come with some procedural paperwork.

      I’m not disagreeing with you that the hospital might not be at fault if they considered his request the same as any other request to change nurse care (I mean, you can request a different nurse just because they smell bad to you) AND if they followed their established protocol for whenever that happens. I think that’s key because if they didn’t, then they could very well be liable for a suit–in the context of the guy’s racist request, if the hospital didn’t follow their usual procedure, then the nurse could very well claim that she was treated differently by her employer because of her race. I AM in disagreement with your assertion that a hospital has to abide by all patient requests, especially when those requests are not medically necessary and COULD jeopardize the well-being of patients. (in this case, just to put out an example, would reassigning the African-American nurse mean that she would have to relearn the intricacies of another baby’s case history and disrupt the continuity of that baby’s care because that baby’s original nurse had to be reassigned to the neo-Nazi’s baby? Seems like a small matter, but I wouldn’t be happy about it if I were the mother of the ‘other baby’ and found out that my nurse was switched because some guy had some non-essential asshole request.)

      Sorry for the long response–I’m recovering from surgery and bedridden and bored and these legal cases are interesting to me.

  • whiteroses

    Here’s hoping this ass has never heard of Garrett Morgan. Because if he suddenly decides not to use traffic lights because they were improved and patented by a black man, we’re all in trouble.

  • Bridget

    While I agree that it was a disgustingly racist request, as parents, don’t people have a right to say who they want to allow or not allow to touch their child?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      Not when they are entrusting that care to a hospital that is required by law not to discriminate in assignment of duties and the request would violate that law. If you want to racistly micro-manage who is providing life-sustaining support to your child, then you can hire a private team to do that in your own home.

      And you certainly don’t go to DETROIT and expect it to be followed… not that it ever should be, but I could at least see it not even being an issue (practically speaking) somewhere else where there are hardly any minorities on staff.