‘As healthcare workers, this is our fight, too’: Healthcare workers unite to support Black Lives Matter

June 11, 2020

By Matt Berg, Photos by Jessica Rinaldi, Boston Globe

Healthcare workers across the state joined together Thursday afternoon to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and stand up against police brutality, honoring the victims who have died at the hands of police.

At noon, the healthcare workers, from over 25 facilities, united in a moment of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time a white police officer pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck before he died in Minneapolis over two weeks ago. Peaceful protests have arisen around the country in hopes of ending police brutality, sparking the healthcare workers’ urge to show their support.

Outside of Boston Medical Center, many workers took a knee. Others held posters depicting George Floyd’s face. Some raised a fist in the air, a symbol of solidarity.

Smith Lamothe, a patient navigator at the medical center, spoke to the crowd of roughly 40 workers on the lawn. In a telephone interview, he paraphrased several points he gave his colleagues to take away from this movement, highlighting what they, as healthcare workers, must do.

“We must honor those who are no longer with us, many due to being killed by law enforcement," said Lamothe, a Dorchester resident. "Words without action are void of substance, and our collective voices are required to protect the health and wellbeing of Black people. This action that we’re taking at BMC is just first step toward many that could be taken.”

For him and his colleagues workers, Lamothe said it’s not difficult to notice the impacts of systemic racism in everyday work.

“As healthcare workers, this is our fight, too. If you’re in social services or health care, you’ll soon realize there is a correlation between good health and social determinants," Lamothe said.

The coronavirus has disproportionately affected people of color across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many symptoms of systemic racism contribute to the healthcare disparity among minorities, including residential segregation, densely populated living areas, distance from healthcare facilities and grocery stores, and serious underlying medical conditions, according to a CDC report.

As peaceful protests continue across the country, the focus has shifted toward large-scale police reforms, such as reallocating police department budgets and replacing officers with social workers who may be better equipped to handle certain situations.

Lamothe told the crowd that not all cops are bad cops — many are neighbors, locals who are ingrained in the community, he said. He said it’s not a matter of people disliking police, but “a matter of the overwhelming number of Black and brown people are being killed by some cops and being unfairly treated.”

“This isn’t a white fight or a Black fight,” Lamothe said. “The truth of the matter is this a human condition fight, and we need to come together. We are in this together."

“Through this demonstration, healthcare workers are making a statement: COVID-19 and racism are both public health crises, Black Lives Matter, and we must be a part of the solution,” according to a joint statement from the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Massachusetts Senior Care Association, and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.

Facilities that took part in the event include:

- Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield

- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Plymouth

- Beverly Hospital

- Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport

- Boston Medical Center

- Cambridge Health Alliance

- Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis

- Courtyard Nursing Care in Medford

- Emerson Hospital in Concord

- Falmouth Hospital

- Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Brookline

- Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston

- Holyoke Medical Center

- Lowell General Hospital

- Lynn Community Health Center

- Reliant Medical Group in Worcester

- St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River

- Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro

- Tobey Hospital in Wareham

- UMass Memorial – Marlborough Hospital

- UMass Memorial HealthAlliance – Clinton Hospital

- UMass Memorial Medical Center

- Six Steward Health Care hospitals, including Carney Hospital in Dorchester