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Standing up for social justice and health equity

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Standing up for social justice and health equity

Yesterday, I shared this important message with all of our employees at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System.

The last few weeks have been a deeply painful time for our country. As I write this message, many of the social and racial disparities that have long been an issue, but ignored by too many, are now the focus of a much-needed national discussion. People are speaking loudly and with great passion about injustice and systemic racism. The protests taking place in our state and throughout the country are visible expressions of the deep levels of grief, frustration and pain that are calling out for change and demanding accountability from those in power.

At Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System we unequivocally support efforts to promote fairness, build understanding and tolerance, and take bold steps to achieve true equality for all people regardless of race, gender or economic status. We must work to end the systemic racism and all forms of prejudice that remain in our country today. This includes a focus on this country’s healthcare system where we’ve clearly seen that numerous health conditions – including COVID-19 – have had highly disproportionate health and financial impacts on people of color.

SVMHS recently joined a social media effort by the nation’s hospitals, healthcare systems and other organizations that sought to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. That was an important public message for our organization to make. Some of you have recently asked me to clarify our organization’s position on what’s happening in our country and how we plan to address it. You are asking the right questions, and I appreciate your advocacy for social justice and equality.

My message today starts what will be on an ongoing conversation about how SVMHS is taking a leadership role in ways that will drive change. My commitment to you is that we will have that conversation transparently, regularly and honestly. I know that I speak for all the leaders of this organization when I say that your feedback along the way will be welcomed and encouraged. To accomplish meaningful change on the issues of systemic racism and health disparities, words alone will not be enough. It will require action. Here are a few things that we are doing:

  • Looking at new ways to support and educate our staff. We are currently finalizing plans with CSUMB for a program that will reach all staff – supporting those who are struggling with having the conversation about this national issue and what it means to us. We will also be taking a close look at all aspects of our operations to see where we are falling short and identifying how we can seriously and significantly lead efforts to ensure racial equality.
  • Continuing to commit to hiring practices that promote diversity. We strive to have a strong organization made up of diverse cultures, races and gender identities that represent all of the people in the communities that we serve. Importantly, the commitment to doing this includes hiring for members of our leadership team.
  • Applying learnings from our Community Health Needs Assessment. This work was a months-long study and report assessing the health needs of our community. In the decision-making process to determine which health needs to prioritize for our organization we considered feedback from the community as well as an assessment of the disparities and inequities that exist. Already, this work has helped identify important investments like our mobile health clinic and expansion of services at the Taylor Farms Family Health & Wellness Center.

I want to close today by also asking for you to look out for each other as well as your friends, loved ones and neighbors. Tensions are high and emotions are raw – justifiably so. We need to support each other as we work through this situation and build a better future. I know that you will embrace this request and I thank you for living out the mission and values of this organization in the work you do every day.

Pete

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