NAACP continues to push for diversity at Navicent Health

The Macon chapter of the NAACP held a town hall on March 29 to discuss indigent care, workplace discrimination and more African-American representation within leadership at Navicent Health/Jennifer Munoz (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- The Macon-Bibb chapter of the NAACP has continued to push for increased diversity at Navicent Health.

On Thursday the organization held a Town Hall to talk about indigent care, workplace discrimination and more African-American representation within the hospital's leadership.

Chapter president Gwenette Westbrooks said Thursday evening that it doesn't make sense that the hospital's leadership doesn't reflect the county's African-American population. "Macon-Bibb is 52 percent African-American there is no one in the top management position that represents this community," she said.

In September 2017, the NAACP, state representative James Beverly, CEO Ninfa Saunders, Westbrooks and others met to discuss the organization's concerns. At the town hall, Westbrooks said, "I asked her why there were no African-Americans on the top executive team and her response was she wasn't going to hire anyone black, just because they are black, and that there was no one qualified in Macon-Bibb."

Westbrooks added that she found this response "insulting." In a February 2018 letter to Saunders, Westbrooks asked, "My question is: Did you ever think to go outside of Macon to search for qualified African-Americans within your four years as CEO?"

That letter also alleges that Navicent places unfair barriers on patients trying to access indigent care funds, which the hospital receives from local government.

In March, the office of general counsel with Navicent Health responded to Westbrooks' letter to Saunders, which said the hospital wouldn't communicate directly with her for the following reasons:

  • "You were formerly employed by Navicent and involuntarily terminated from your employment."
  • "You recently made a claim against Navicent regarding retirement benefits, and that appeal is pending."
  • "Your recent appearance before the Macon-Bibb County Commission, where you made baseless accusations, in an attempt to interfere with Navicent's indigent care funding."

In Thursday night's Town Hall meeting Westbrooks defended these statements by Navicent.

Westbrooks said she resigned from Navicent and received a separation notice from Navicent Health.

Since a March 16 press conference in front of the hospital, Westbrooks said that the NAACP has gotten 12 complaints about Navicent Health.

WGXA reached out to Navicent Health, which replied with the following statement:

“Navicent Health has a strong commitment to diversity and is a leader in developing and maintaining a diverse workforce. According to a 2015 survey of data, the latest data available, from more than 1,000 hospitals in the United States conducted by the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, Navicent Health’s percentage of racial diversity in its management ranks exceeds the national average across all job categories reviewed in the survey. Navicent Health is one of a few hospitals of its size and scope in the country that has both a representative of a minority group as the chairperson of its board and as its chief executive officer. Since 2013, Navicent Health has increased minority representation in its management ranks by nearly 40 percent. “

A few addental things we would like to point out with regards to employment -

The Institute for Diversity in Health Management found that in 2015 (the latest data available) minorities represented 14 percent of hospital boards, 15 percent of executive leadership and 19 percent of first and mid-level managers. In 2017, minorities represented nearly 35 percent of Navicent Health’s board members, 18 percent of its executive leadership and 25 percent of its first- and mid-level managers.

We have 51 African Americans in our management workforce out of 254 management employees or roughly 20 percent. We believe this number exceeds the percentage of African-Americans in management positions in hospitals of our size and scope. We have four African Americans in executive leadership of 31 employees (12 percent). The survey found African Americans represent about 8 percent of executive leadership at the hospitals in the study.

We would also like to highlight any questions about the indigent care we provide -

Navicent Health and its partners have been recognized by the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services for their measurable success in the work to eliminate healthcare disparities. Eliminating disparities, improving outcomes, decreasing preventable illnesses and premature deaths, most prevalent in minority, underserved, and rural, populations, is our priority for all communities. We also received a proclamation from the Macon-Bibb County Commission for our work in this area.

Macon-Bibb County has a responsibility to provide for the health and wellbeing of its residents, regardless of any individual’s financial resources. Navicent Health fulfills its moral obligation to care for all by treating everyone who passes through our doors, never turning anyone away based on their ability to pay. This is a moral commitment that has financial costs. In FY 2016, we provided nearly $15 million in indigent care to patients who reside in Bibb County. Currently, we receive about $450,000, or 3 percent of the costs, from Macon-Bibb County. Although it is only a fraction of costs we assume, it is critical to our ability to continue to provide care. According to U.S. census data, nearly 28 percent of Bibb County residents, or 43,000 people, live below the poverty line. A decision to cut funding for indigent care could impact the entire community including people with limited or no financial security, the uninsured, underinsured and everyone who relies on private insurance and our ability to provide affordable access to care.

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