June 8, 2020

Our Responsibility: We Must Be a Better Health Care System

June 8, 2020

In the last three months, we have all heard the question “when will we get back to normal”?  But in those same three months, we have been reminded – over and over again – that “normal” is not good enough, especially for so many people of color in our country.  Last week, with the outrageous murder of George Floyd by a white policeman, we were witness again to the risk that black men and women face every day.  The murder of George Floyd followed closely behind the brutal shooting death of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, in Atlanta by a former white police officer; Christian Cooper a black man birdwatching in Central Park who was reported to the police for reminding a white woman to leash her dog; and Breonna Taylor, a young black EMT in Louisville Kentucky shot to death by police as she slept in her home.  These are just the most recent of so many acts of violence against people of color in our country.

In addition, the impact of COVID illustrates again the many ways that structural racism results in worse health outcomes for people of color.  The demographics of COVID+ patients in hospitals and the death rates from COVID are disproportionately made up of people of color.  It’s a tragic reminder of how income, job type, reliance on public transportation, poor housing, food insecurity, and underlying health conditions (often resulting from social determinants of health) bring higher rates of sickness and death among people of color.

Some wonder if they can really make a difference.  I would say we have no choice but to try.  I know that not talking about the incredible injustice that the death of George Floyd reflects is not the path to positive change.  But talking about it and expressing outrage is also not enough.  We have to refuse to tolerate the blatant  and as important — subtle — forms of racism in the nation and, yes, even here in our “bubble” of the Pioneer Valley.  We need to further our work at Cooley Dickinson, both as the major provider of health care in our community and as an employer.

I pledge to all of you our commitment to take seriously our responsibility to work to be a better health care provider, employer, and leader in our community to not return to “normal” when it comes to social justice and racism.  We must be better.

Joanne Marqusee
President & CEO
Cooley Dickinson Health Care