Hospital Bars Black Nurse from Caring for Newborn

Target: The Board of Managers at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan

Goal: Apologize to nurse Tonya Battle for supporting decision to bar her from caring for a newborn based on her race

Tonya Battle has been a nurse at Hurley Medical Center for twenty-five years. She also happens to be African-American, which led a patient’s racist family member to discriminate against her. Instead of standing by its employee and honoring her long years of experience and service, the hospital chose to join in the discrimination.

The story begins in Hurley Medical Center’s neo-natal care unit, where Tonya Battle was caring for a newborn patient for undisclosed reasons. There appeared to be nothing wrong with Ms. Battle’s level of care, yet the patient’s father asked to speak to her supervisor. When that conversation took place, the father demanded that no black nurses be allowed to care for his infant. The father then rolled up his sleeve to reveal a Swastika tattoo.

It is a sad truth that racism and bigotry this deep still exist in our society. But instead of standing against it, Hurley Medical Center chose to bow to the father’s wishes: Tonya Battle was removed from the newborn’s care and a note was placed on the patient record saying “No African American nurses to take care of baby.” For the duration of the infant’s stay, which lasted another month, Ms. Battle and other black nurses were kept away.

There are positive, acceptable ways to deal with bigotry. Education and rational discussion come to mind. Actively participating in said bigotry and preventing a racial minority from conducting her life’s work is not an acceptable way.

Nor is it beneficial for the patient. It may be too late to change the mind of the newborn’s father: if he was willing to interfere with the care of his child in order to assuage his own prejudices then there’s likely nothing that can alter his beliefs at this point. But that newborn child needs to understand that racism is not valued in our society. By isolating this child and allowing the father to pass on poisonous beliefs, the hospital violated a primary edict of healthcare: First, Do No Harm.

Hospital staff may claim that they were simply trying to make the patient’s family comfortable but that is an absurd argument. Hospitals enforce laws and internal policies all the time that they deem necessary or beneficial to the well-being of their patients. Bowing to explicitly racist patient requests should be no more allowable than smoking. Both are toxic.

Sign this petition to tell Hurley Medical Center to apologize to nurse Tonya Battle, and to change its policies regarding such inflammatory and racist requests.


Dear Hurley Medical Center Board of Managers:

First, Do No Harm. That is the mandate that all health workers live by. Yet you violated it recently when you racially discriminated against your own employee, nurse Tonya Battle. Ms. Battle has worked for Hurley Medical Center for twenty-five years, yet when a patient’s family member demanded that she and all other African-American nurses be barred from performing their duties, you failed to stand by your employee. Instead you sided with racism and prejudice.

How you thought this was the best and most ethical action to take is incomprehensible. As a public hospital you have a duty to follow the best values of society, which do not include bigotry, and the ability to enforce those values. Bowing to explicitly racist patient requests should be no more allowable in your hospital than smoking. Both are toxic to your patients and employees alike.

Apologize to nurse Tonya Battle and change your policies regarding requests of this nature.


[Your Name Here]

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  1. Madhu Pillai says:

    Can not believe in this day and age we have such bigotry! And an institution like an hospital succumb to such racism. Can only shake my head in disgust and disbelief!

  2. Unconstitutional and shameful for this to happen in our country.

  3. wHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ” lIVE AND let LIVE”. Is any-one asked to pay the living or medical expenses of those who march to the beat of a different drum ??? NO, then leave them alone and let them make and learn from their own mistakes just like the rest of us. Are we ALL so pristine in our life styles we can afford to throw rocks at some one else’s glass house” NO we are not” is the answer if we are honest. Examine your own closet and clean that out before you start posturing and cleaning some -ne else’s.

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