of 500 signatures
Letter to Seattle Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees and Executive Leadership Team
RE: Letter to Seattle Children’s workforce and community from Susan Betcher, Chair of the Hospital Board of Trustees and Jeff Sperring, MD, Chief Executive Officer, regarding Covington & Burling’s Assessment of Seattle Children’s Efforts to Combat Racism and Promote Systemwide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion To the Seattle Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees and Executive Leadership Team
The Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees’ unanimous adoption of Covington & Burling’s recommendations following their independent investigation of systemic racism at Seattle Children’s Hospital is an encouraging and necessary first step to providing equitable treatment of the entire Children’s community as promised in the July 30th Press Release. At the same time, it is rendered hollow by the continued lack of action on the very recommendations that were unanimously adopted.
The Assessment Committee, in their letter to Susan Betcher, Chair of the Hospital Board of Trustees, strongly urged that the Board release Covington & Burling’s eleven findings statements and their complete recommendations to promote transparency with the Seattle Children’s community. In the summary of recommendations that was linked to the letter, recommendation VII states: Communicate Transparently. When other companies such as Uber and Starbucks have hired Covington & Burling to conduct a similar investigation, they have publicly released the report of findings. However, you have chosen not to release the findings and have provided no timeline for doing so. The transparency recommended within the report is one of the most important steps to building back trust with the entire Children’s community.
Abigail Echo-Hawk of the Assessment Committee was quoted in the Seattle Times as being “deeply disappointed” that the hospital has not released the findings, and went further in saying “I do not believe we will achieve equity or movement toward justice for our community without the release of the statement of findings.”
Dr. Ben Danielson, whom you thank in your letter for prompting Covington & Burling’s investigation, has expressed that your letter has not acknowledged or apologized for the harm that Seattle Children’s systemic racism has inflicted upon patients, families, staff, and our community for decades. He is quoted as saying, “There seems to be a lack of transparency, one of the things most concerning about the way decisions are made there. As one of many who are watching closely, this falls far short of a true reckoning. I hold leadership, including the board, responsible for this inadequate, disheartening, and somewhat insulting response.”
Srilata Remala, a former Seattle Children’s Foundation Board member who resigned earlier this year due to Seattle Children’s lack of response to equity concerns, has said that Seattle Children’s has no excuse to withhold the findings since any patient information could be redacted and remarked, “It’s hard watching this unravel, especially after so many people trusted the process.”
The Seattle Children’s Hospital workforce and community stand with the Assessment Committee, Dr. Ben Danielson, and Srilata Remala. We collectively share their disappointment at the Board’s choice to withhold the findings of Covington & Burling’s investigation, and we are frustrated by Seattle Children’s unwillingness to acknowledge or apologize for the harm they have caused us all. Since the recent Seattle Times article we have also come to learn that Cynthia Huffman resigned from the Seattle Children’s Board of Trustees in protest of the Board’s decision, and several other prominent members of the Board-appointed Assessment Committee and the community have publicly voiced their bewilderment and frustration. The Board’s decision is yet another squandered opportunity to rebuild trust with our staff and community, and goes against Recommendation VI: Listen to the Workforce, Patients, and Families.
Seattle Children’s continued refusal to follow their rhetoric with concrete action is deeply concerning, especially in the wake of such a high profile and costly investigation that so many of us placed our trust in. These actions undermine any efforts to rebuild trust with the workforce or community, and continue to perpetuate the systemic racism that the Board has pledged to combat. It has erased any trust that we had in the Board and institution achieving our antiracism goals, squarely branding both as continued barriers to meaningful change.
This letter is not intended to speak on behalf of all clinicians and staff at Children’s, but to share the experiences and sentiments that are impacting so many of us who keep this hospital going. As the people that you, the Board, trust to care for patients and their families, we take our responsibilities seriously. Let us be clear: we will never waiver in the care and commitment we make to every child and family who walks through our doors. However, your continued refusal to take decisive action to end the racist practices that have negatively affected patients, families, and employees makes it increasingly difficult to be proud of the place we work. We come to work each day and continue to read your emails and attend town halls that promise analysis, assessment, and planning of the obvious, damaging, racist practices that we have made you aware of for years. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, and devastated by your inaction and willful decision to avoid transparency and responsibility.
To the broader Seattle Children’s community: we care for you and your children in every way that we are able to within the constraints of this system. We work behind the scenes to make sure your appointments are well-planned, that you have answers to your questions, and that you feel heard. We think of you and your children when you leave the hospital. We take immense pride in their treatment and we carry you with us when we go home at the end of our day. It is clear that our voices fall on deaf ears when it comes to hospital leadership. Please help us by advocating with and for us.
We, the undersigned, formally and immediately demand the following concrete actions:
Release of the findings of Covington & Burling’s investigation IN FULL, redacted of any identifying information to preserve patient and staff confidentiality, to both the workforce and the community.
Public acknowledgement AND apology for the harm that systemic racism at Seattle Children’s Hospital has inflicted upon patients, families, staff, and the community
Public acknowledgement AND apology to Dr. Ben Danielson for the harm that Seattle Children’s Hospital has inflicted upon him
The immediate resignation of Susan Betcher, Chair of the Hospital Board of Trustees
The immediate resignation of Dr. Jeff Sperring, Chief Executive Officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital
To quote your letter, “This is our responsibility, we take it very seriously, and expect to be held accountable for results.” The time to be held accountable commences now with the above steps. Not doing so risks irreparable damage to the already devastated relationship that the workforce and community have with Seattle Children’s Hospital.
We urge any and all members of the community to join us in signing this letter/petition to demand the long-overdue change we all deserve, and move our community finally towards healing.
Anonymous Providers at Seattle Children’s Hospital
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