The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed that the federal government is launching a civil rights investigation into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center over how they treat Black women who are giving birth at the Los Angeles hospital.
HHS released a statement, reading in part, “Maternal health is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and one in which the HHS Office for Civil Rights is working on around the country to ensure equity and equality in health care,” continuing, “To protect the integrity of this ongoing investigation we have no further comment.”
This probe is occurring more than seven years “after allegations of racism and discrimination emerged” following the death of Kira Dixon Johnson “who died after she suffered internal bleeding following a cesarean section. The baby, Langston Johnson, survived.”
Her death sparked a nationwide conversation about racial disparities with regard to Black maternal mortality and healthcare.
Charles Johnson, Kira’s husband, said this federal investigation has been an “extremely long time coming,” adding “I am extremely proud that HHS is going forward with this [investigation]; that they are taking it seriously and this has been I think an extremely long time coming.”
“This investigation is a very important step toward accountability, transparency and ultimately, an important step in making sure that families from all walks of lives receive the safe, dignified, respectful care that they deserve not only in material health but healthcare as a whole,” said Johnson.
In March, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) wrote to Charles, and their letter noted that they had “been made aware of concerns regarding the standard of care provided to Black women in the care of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center…Specifically, OCR is aware of allegations that Black women are provided a standard of care below what is provided to other women who are not Black when receiving health care services related to labor and delivery.”
The letter also said that “based on the allegations and the fact that Cedars-Sinai receives federal funding, the agency is reviewing whether the hospital is complying with federal civil rights laws.”
Cedars-Sinai released a statement, “Cedars-Sinai clinicians, leaders and researchers have long been concerned with national disparities in Black maternal health, and we are proud of the work we’ve done (and continue to do) to address these issues in Los Angeles as well as at the state and national levels.”
This year the National Center for Health Statistics released a report that there has been a 40% increase in pregnant woman who died in just one year from 2021 to 2022. That report also indicated that “[p]regnant Black women continue to have the highest risk of dying…[at] 2.6 times the rate for white women.”