Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has concluded his investigation into systemic racism at Seattle Children’s, but the hospital has yet to release the findings as recommended by the committee that oversaw the assessment.
The investigation was prompted by Dr. Ben Danielson, who cited institutional racism at the hospital as reason for his resignation last year. In the face of public pressure over the beloved pediatrician’s departure, the hospital hired Holder and his Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Covington & Burling, in January. The firm heard from more than 1,000 people in the months since.
Prominent local figures who oversaw Covington’s work, including former Washington state Gov. Gary Locke and Urban Indian Health Institute Director Abigail Echo-Hawk, recommended earlier this week that the hospital share the findings.
“We strongly encourage the board to publicly release at least Covington’s eleven findings statements, as well as Covington’s complete recommendations, to be fully transparent with the Seattle Children’s community and to share the lessons from this assessment,” the committee wrote in a letter to the chair of the hospital board.
The hospital board has yet to do that.
On Friday, Chair Susan Betcher and CEO Jeff Sperring shared the recommendations from Holder’s investigation, which the board unanimously adopted, but provided no details about the actual findings. A hospital spokesperson did not respond to requests for more information.
Echo-Hawk said she’s “deeply disappointed” the hospital didn’t also release the findings, which she said the oversight committee members stand behind. The oversight committee members had to sign non-disclosure agreements and cannot discuss the investigation’s findings, Echo-Hawk said.
“I do not believe we will achieve equity or movement toward justice for our community without the release of the statement of findings,” Echo-Hawk said.
The recommendations that were released, which some former Seattle Children’s employees have criticized as being vague, include: “lead the institution with purpose and decisive action” and “communicate transparently.” More specific recommendations include increased investment in services for patients with limited English proficiency and eliminating the disparity in use of security, which is disproportionately used against Black patients — two concerns Danielson had publicly discussed.
The hospital’s executive leadership team will create a task force to come up with an action plan by Sept. 1, according to Betcher and Sperring’s statement. It will include “specific public-facing metrics to track progress.”
“Moving forward, we will act with an unwavering commitment to deliver equitable treatment of pediatric care and pursue equitable treatment across Seattle Children’s workforce while promoting anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion for all,” Betcher and Sperring said in their statement. “Where our past actions have not lived up to our aspirations and values, we are resolved to not only do better but lead the way.”
But Danielson said the hospital’s statement didn’t take ownership of harm to families and staff, or apologize.
“There seems to be a lack of transparency, one of the things most concerning about the way decisions are made there,” Danielson said in a text message. “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 over the hospital’s response to equity concerns, said the hospital has no excuse to withhold the findings, since any patient information could be redacted.
“It’s hard watching this unravel, especially after so many people trusted the process,” Remala said.
Holder is also conducting an investigation into sexual misconduct claims at Oregon Health & Science University, at an hourly rate of about $2,000, according to The Oregonian. He recently led an investigation into Tyson Foods, which led to the termination of seven managers at an Iowa pork plant accused of betting on how many workers would contract COVID-19.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Uber released just the recommendations from its external investigation, not the full report.