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Racial disparities at Seattle Children's Hospital continue, investigation finds

The investigation also found the hospital lacked the accountability, infrastructure and culture to address racial disparities in patient treatment.

SEATTLE — A report into racism, equity and inclusion at Seattle Children's hospital found racial disparities in employee treatment, patient treatment and operations at the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic (OBCC), a clinic that provides care to low-income families in Seattle's Central District. 

The report was commissioned by the hospital after allegations of racism were leveled against the institution by Dr. Ben Danielson, the former Medical Director of OBCC who resigned in protest in November of 2020. Former Washington State Attorney General Eric Holder lead the independent examination into the hospital alongside Covington & Burlington LLP. 

The investigation revealed Seattle Children's failed to address microaggressions and maintained a culture of conflict avoidance which excluded and undervalued BIPOC employees at the hospital. 

The report also found racial disparities in leadership positions, promotions and resignations at the hospital continue while leadership challenges, insufficient allocation of resources and lack of accountability have gotten in the way of the hospital's efforts to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Seattle Children's also failed to adequately investigate Danielson's claims that he was called a racial slur by another employee at the hospital in 2009, according to the report. 

Investigators found Seattle Children's knew there were racial disparities in "Code Purple" or security calls at the hospital since 2013, but efforts weren't made to meaningfully address the disparities until 2020. The hospital also lacks the accountability, infrastructure and culture to address racial disparities in patient treatment, according to the report. 

The investigation found employees hold a widespread perception that patients receive different treatment at the hospital based on race and ethnicity. 

The report characterized the relationship between Seattle Children's Hospital and OBCC as interdependent, skeptical and misaligned around OBCC's operations. 

In response to the report, the Seattle Children's Board of Trustees said it would use the recommendations resulting from the investigation to inform an action plan for the hospital by Sept. 1. 

"As you read Covington’s recommendations and finding statements, you will see that Seattle Children’s and the Board have much work to do," said Seattle Children's Board of Trustees Chair Susan Betcher. "We resolve to engage in this work with transparency, urgency and accountability."

Seattle Children's said it will release timelines and accountable outcome metrics to the public and will commission Covington to assess the hospital's progress. 

Following the release of the findings, the WA BLM Alliance called on Seattle Children's CEO and Board Chair to step down

“The official findings are clear and damning; hospital leadership has been aware of the insidious nature of anti-Black racism and explicit bias and done nothing,” said Sakara Remmu, lead strategist of the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance. “Nothing to protect staff. Nothing to protect patients. Nothing to hold offenders accountable.”