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2nd nurse sues Mich. hospital over patient’s discriminatory note

Andrew AverillThe Christian Science Monitor

Where there is one, there is more.

Just days after news spread of a nurse at a Flint, Mich. hospital who had filed a lawsuit claiming her employer granted a patient’s request not to have African-American nurses treat his baby, a second nurse has corroborated the claim in another lawsuit.

The nurse, Carlotta Anderson, claims in her lawsuit that a notice was posted on the assignment clipboard in the neonatal unit of the Hurley Medical Center on Oct. 31 that said, “No African American nurse to take care of baby.”

Anderson’s lawyer, Tom Pabst, tells The Christian Science Monitor that the notice is unambiguous discrimination.

“There’s no misunderstanding. They gave an instruction. No black hand touches a white baby,” he says.

News of the first lawsuit, filed by Tonya Battle, spread, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network held a press conference Feb. 19 in front of Hurley Medical Center to protest the notice and demand accountability.

Hurley Medical Center CEO Melany Gavulic, speaking with reporters at the press conference, denied that Hurley granted the patient’s request to have only white nurses take care of his newborn, according to The Flint Journal.

“We value the support of the patients who entrust us with their care and the dedication of our physicians and staff,” she told reporters. “This includes nurse Battle and her quarter century of professionalism and dedication.”

Hurley Medical Center was not immediately available for comment.

Despite Gavulic’s denial that such a request was granted, Pabst tells the Monitor that there is photographic proof of the notice -- it was broadcast by WJRT-ABC12 -- and for the two weeks it was posted it was a topic of conversation among the all nurses stationed there.

“The white nurses showed it to Carlotta and said, ‘Can you believe this?’” Pabst says. “The white nurses were shocked. They’re colleagues.”

The man who the two nurses claim made the request is himself a conversation starter. According to Battle’s lawsuit, the man rolled up his sleeve and showed a supervisor what was believed to be a swastika tattooed on his arm.

Some comments on the Flint Journal story questioned whether or not the man has the right as a patient to decide who cares for his baby.

According to court documents from a similar case in Indiana, a black nursing assistant in 2010 filed a lawsuit against her previous employer, Plainfield Healthcare Center, after being told in writing that “no blacks” assistants were to enter a patient’s room as a result of that patient’s request.

The Indiana lawsuit made its way to federal court, where Plainfield was found to have made a racially hostile environment.

The issue at Hurley Medical Center is not one of patient’s rights, says Rev. Charles E. Williams II, president of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s chapter in Michigan, but of discrimination.

“I can choose whether I want a man or a woman. I don’t want a man to touch my child or a woman in her private section. We’re not talking about gender,” he says. “We’re talking about the content of character versus skin color. This is 2013, you tell me, how does skin color separate us from how we serve each other?”