Indiana University Health has put a “very limited number” of staff members on administrative leave while they receive diversity training, following the death of a Black doctor in December who had complained of receiving racist medical care.
Dennis Murphy, CEO of IU Health, declined on Wednesday to identify the staff members involved in the care of Dr. Susan Moore, who died of COVID-19 on Dec. 20 after being discharged from IU North Hospital in Carmel.
In an interview with IBJ, Murphy said no staff members have been terminated in relation to Moore’s care, which was a recommendation of an outside board that reviewed the case. But the hospital system also followed the board’s recommendation that an unspecified number of IU Health employees who were involved in Moore’s care be put on leave while they get diversity training.
“They will receive the training as recommended by the external review committee and then reinstated into their clinical roles,” Murphy said.
The outside panel of six experts, including four Black members, reviewed the circumstances surrounding the care of Moore, which included interviewing more than 30 people.
Murphy declined to release a copy of the committee’s report, saying it contained protected medical information and confidential interviews with staff members.
He said IU Health is creating a new staff role, called chief health equity officer, and is in the process of trying to fill the position. The person will be responsible for the delivery of care and ensuring that it’s equitable in terms of medical access, outcomes and patient experience, Murphy said.
The hospital system also has a chief diversity and inclusion officer, Lisa Gutierrez, whose job is to lead the system’s diversity and inclusion strategy and promote an environment of equity, compassion and respect.
In a statement released earlier on Wednesday, IU Health said the outside panel concluded that the medical care Moore received did not contribute to her death. But it acknowledged there was a “lack of empathy and compassion” shown in the delivery of her care.
The hospital system did not specify the empathy and compassion issues, or identify which caregivers were responsible.
“We owe it to our patients to always show up for them, to treat them with dignity and respect, to appreciate their perspectives, and to validate their feelings when they are in our care,” Murphy said in a written statement.
He added: “We did not live up to these values with Dr. Moore and acknowledge that we have more to do to become a more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist health system.”
The hospital system said it has already begun taking action after receiving recommendations from the external review panel.
Those steps include conduct training for all employees “to enhance compassion, encourage empathy and facilitate an optimal patient experience.”
IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said it also plans to hire more patient care advocates, improve patient care coordination, and increase support for team members who experience burnout and poor patient outcomes.
Moore was admitted to IU North after testing positive for COVID-19. In a video posted to social media, she said she had to repeatedly ask for medication, scans and routine checks. She said caregivers there, including one white doctor, seemed to dismiss her pain, and wanted to discharge her from the hospital late in the evening.
“I put forth and maintain, if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that,” Moore said in the Dec. 4 video, as she labored to breathe, with her voice often cracking. “This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”
She was released from the hospital on Dec. 7, but was again hospitalized 12 hours later when her temperature spiked and her blood pressure dropped, according to a post. She was taken to a different hospital, Ascension St. Vincent in Carmel, and said she was experiencing better care. Still, her condition worsened, and she was put on a ventilator. She died Dec. 20.
Murphy said the past few months have been “a really difficult time” for IU Health as it tried to grapple with allegations of racist care.
“But we think we will come out of this stronger and more committed to the idea of being one of the best organizations in the country as it relates to diversity, inclusion and equity,” he said.