Hurley Medical Center's CEO says no nurses barred from baby - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Hurley Medical Center's CEO says no nurses were barred from caring for baby

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(02/19/13) - Hurley Medical Center's CEO is breaking her silence following a lawsuit filed by a black nurse claiming racial discrimination.

The nurse, who has worked at Hurley nearly 25 years, claims she was re-assigned because she is black.

The suit says Hurley honored a father's request, last October and into November, that no African American nurses care for his newborn baby in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.

See previous story HERE.

The lawsuit claims the nurse's supervisor, the charge nurse, contacted a nurse manager who re-assigned the baby, later met with another supervisor to OK the father's request and even had a staff meeting to let them know about the decision.

The suit claims there was a note posted on an assignment clipboard before a hospital attorney told the nurse manager they could not continue doing what had been done.

Activists with the Michigan Chapter of Al Sharpton's National Action Network held a news conference at the hospital Tuesday. They are demanding answers and action.

"Silence is consent," said Rev. Charles Williams III.  "People will know across the world that if Hurley hospital can't handle this correctly, then Hurley hospital don't need to handle my baby or your baby either."

Hurley CEO Melany Gavulic addressed reporters directly after that news conference. Hospital Spokeswoman Ilene Cantor had previously said the hospital does not comment on past or current litigation.

"The father was informed that his request could not be granted, and as a result, all nurses remained available to care for his baby," said Gavulic. "We appreciate the community's concern and involvement today, as we publicly clarify the facts of this case. The medical center looks forward to a quick and amicable resolution."

Gavulic's statement directly contradicts the allegations in the lawsuit, which was just recently filed in Genesee County Circuit Court and also what the father has told ABC12. He admitted he made the request and said it was honored for at least one day.

The lawsuit claims, "The father told the Charge Nurse that he did not want any African Americans taking care of his baby. While telling the Charge Nurse, he pulled up his sleeve and showed some type of tattoo, which was believed to be a swastika of some kind."

When ABC12 asked Gavulic if the nurse was told she couldn't care for the baby, Gavulic answered, "That is not in our statement today."

Gavulic's full statement, read to reporters Tuesday, is posted below. ABC12 is not using the nurse's name. It has been removed from the statement:

Hurley is proud to be the safety net provider for this community for over 105 years.  We value the support of the patients who entrust us with their care and the dedication of our physicians and staff.  This includes Nurse XXXXXX and her quarter century of professionalism and dedication.

While I cannot comment on the suit and answer questions, I can share some insights. The issue was triggered by a father of a baby who demanded that no African American nurse be involved in his baby's care. Upon making his demand, he then showed Nurse XXXXXX's supervisor his swastika tattoo, which created anger and outrage in our staff.  This resulted in concern by supervisors for the safety of the staff.  The father was informed that his request could not be granted. 

Hurley Medical Center has had a rich history and reputation of supporting and valuing diversity and remains committed to our policy of non discrimination.  As a premier academic medical center, Hurley strives to continuously provide education to our staff.  This issue will be used in future training sessions to ensure that employees are prepared to handle situations such as this. We appreciate the community's concern and involvement, as we publicly clarify the facts of this case. The medical center looks forward to a quick and amicable resolution."

Melany Gavulic, RN, MBA

President & Chief Executive Officer

Hurley Medical Center

Maybe most compelling is that note the lawsuit alleges was posted on the assignment clipboard. Only ABC12 has obtained copy of it.

The note reads, "Please, No African American Nurses to care for Baby per Dad's request. Thank you."

A source, Tuesday, said the note was posted for about four hours. Activists said it shows the hospital took a position.

"We have no comments on that," Gavulic said.

Hurley Attorney Kendall Williams did comment when Sam Riddle, with activists Tuesday, asked him directly if the note was on the baby's bed.

"That did not happen, Sam. There was no note put on any bed at all," Williams said.  Again, the lawsuit claims it was on an assignment clipboard and not a bed.

"Allegations in a complaint are just that - allegations," Williams said.

ABC12 spoke with the baby's mother Tuesday. She declined comment at this point.

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