An African-American nurse claims a Michigan hospital agreed to a man’s request that no black nurses care for his newborn. The hospital has denied these allegations.
Tonya Battle, 49, tells the Detroit Free Press she didn’t know how to react when she learned about the request in October at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. Battle sued last month in Genesee Circuit Court seeking punitive damages.
Battle’s lawsuit claims a note was posted on an assignment clipboard reading “No African American nurse to take care of baby.” She says it was later removed, but claims black nurses weren’t assigned to the baby’s care for about a month.
“I introduced myself to him. ‘Hi, I’m Tonya and I’m taking care of your baby. Can I see your [identification] band?’” Battle said to the Free Press, referring to the hospital-issued identification used to identify infants’ parents. “And he said in return, ‘And I need to see your supervisor.’”
Battle told the Free Press she felt it was important to bring the issue to court because she started thinking “What’s next?”
“A note on the water fountain that says ‘No blacks’? Or a note on the bathroom that says ‘No blacks’?” she said.
Here’s how the hospital spokesperson said the situation went, according to the Detroit News:
“Upon making his demand, [the father] then showed Nurse Battle’s supervisor his swastika tattoo, which created anger and outrage in our staff,” hospital spokeswoman Ilene Cantor said.
“This resulted in concern by supervisors for the safety of the staff,” she said. “The father was informed that his request could not be granted.”
Hurley President Melany Gavulic echoed this in a statement Tuesday saying that the man’s revealing of the swastika tattoo, angered and concerned for the staff for their safety. She said that the father was denied his request, which made all nurses available to care for the newborn.
Watch Gavulic give the hospital’s statement to the press:
The Lansing State Journal reported that Gavulic and a hospital attorney met Tuesday with the Michigan chapter president of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Rev. Charles Williams II. Although Williams said he believes the hospital is seeking to resolve the issue and that Gavulic was “heartfelt” about doing so, he believes the hospital has yet to publicly admit wrong doing. Given this statement, it seems that even after this meeting Williams is still convinced the hospital might have avoided assigning black nurses to care for the baby.
“These kinds of actions should not be tolerated, especially when it’s the public dime,” Williams said, according to the Detroit News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.