A left-wing health nonprofit is praising an Oregon clinic for its commitment to "health equity" just weeks after workers staged a walk out at the Portland facility over alleged racial discrimination.
The California Improvement Network, a nonprofit committed to eliminating the "structural barriers that prevent people of color" from receiving health care, praised the Oregon Health and Science University's Richmond Clinic for its commitment to "health equity" in a new "toolkit" aimed at changing the way doctors treat low-income patients. But just weeks earlier, in March, clinic employees had staged a walkout over allegations of racially discriminatory management practices.
The California Improvement Network lauded the Oregon clinic's "broader approach to healthy equity work," which "prioritizes centering people with lived experience and seeks leadership from these individuals." That praise came in its "Toolkit to Advance Racial Health Equity in Primary Care Improvement" published earlier this month.
The toolkit also conflicts with a 2021 report commissioned by the clinic which determined that the clinic "failed to create an environment which community members feel values diversity, equity, and inclusion ('DEI') and makes them feel welcome and safe."
The clinic has not effectively addressed these concerns, according to some employees, who allege it enforces racist hiring practices and has a "discriminatory workplace culture," the Portland Mercury reported last month. According to one black employee, clinic officials played music during a Zoom meeting to drown out his comments about racial bias. In another instance, employees claimed that two white workers were "acting black" in a photo to promote beanies.
The alleged discrimination caused one worker to go on mental health leave.
"A lot of the time our performance will be judged a lot more harshly than employees that are not employees of color," the worker, who remained anonymous, told the Mercury. "No employer is perfect and sometimes you are going to be in a difficult situation as a person of color, but this experience I've had at OHSU has been beyond anything I've ever experienced in over 10 years of being in health care."
The Oregon clinic announced last week it is revamping its human resources department in response to the workers' allegations. The local AFSCME union that represents the workers did not respond to a request for comment.
In its equity report, the California Improvement Network praised the clinic for its coordination with community leaders and efforts to combat "racial inequities in diabetes." The network is funded by the California Health Care Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to promote health care access for minorities. The organization did not respond to a request for comment.