The Stew Reporting on government and politics

HHS demands equal coronavirus treatment

Health | Government tries to address racial disparities in hospitalization
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 7/22/20, 11:25 am

American Indians and African Americans suffered hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 at a rate between four and five times higher than that of whites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month. In response to this disparity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent guidance to hospitals across the country this week to ensure healthcare providers did not discriminate against minority patients in the fight against the pandemic.

The guidelines require medical workers to ensure coronavirus testing sites and facilities remain accessible to minorities. They also prevent patients from requesting a doctor or nurse of a particular race or national origin and prohibit unnecessary wait times or denials of treatment for minority patients. The HHS Office of Civil Rights plans to hire a COVID-19 chief health equity officer and increase tracking of the treatment of minorities in U.S. medical centers.

Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights, said in a phone call with reporters that during the pandemic, his office has received an uptick in complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any federally funded program. The measures would make sure there are “no healthcare deserts,” Severino said.

HHS also promised to work on ensuring the distribution of “linguistically diverse” COVID-19 information to patients who may miss out on coverage because English is their second language. Severino referenced a New York hospital that ran out of translators, saying that medical centers could draw on local language students to help when the demands of COVID-19 outpaced a hospital’s normal resources.

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Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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