The city government’s task force on diversity has, predictably enough, gone off into the bushes. That doesn’t mean the effort is hopelessly off course, but it’s in danger of rendering itself irrelevant. That would be a shame, since the topic it is addressing is very important.
The task force includes some 30-odd people, and its mission has been foggy from the jump. It’s called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. So, uhhh, what task is the force supposed to complete? Not clear.
The most recent meeting involved several assertions about health care. Advocates on the task force have already concluded that the problem is that there aren’t enough local doctors who are themselves people of color. And, evidently, that means that outcomes for local minorities are worse than outcomes for patients who are white.
There was a related discussion about medical care for gay and transgender people. Back to that in a minute.
Certainly it’s possible that the percentage of doctors in the area who are minorities is lower than the minority population in the community generally. We don’t know that as a fact, but it should be fairly easily obtainable information, and the task force’s discussion will surely prompt such discovery. To start with, about 5.9 percent of the population of Manhattan is Black, according to the census. What are the demographics of the medical community? We also don’t yet have figures for patient outcomes differentiated by race.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that both assertions are true. Is it reasonable to conclude that one is the cause of the other? If so, then what that implies is that white doctors give worse treatment to their minority patients, on the whole. Is that fair to conclude? And if that’s true, then the city government can solve the problem by….what? A local ordinance requiring doctors to undergo sensitivity training? Or else..what? We’ll throw them in the slammer?
We’re way ahead of ourselves. The problem with such assertions is that they are opinions searching for facts to back them up, and when they are expressed by member of a task force with the backing of the power of government, they need to be scrutinized carefully before we go off making policy.
Speaking of which, the task force also veered into the alleged lack of medical treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The area evidently lacks a person who specializes in such treatment, since the departure of Diana Brightbill, who left town a couple of years ago.
Dr. Brightbill, I might note, was a general practitioner, not a specialist, but, whatever. Let’s assume she in fact provided what was called “LGBTQ+ services.” Does that mean other doctors refuse to provide such services? I highly doubt that. Does that — specifically— mean there are no specialists who deal with medical matters related to gender transition surgery?
I imagine that’s true, but the area lacks lots of specialists: neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons, pulmonologists, rheumatologists, neurologists, nephrologists, infectious disease specialists. If you need specialized medical care in a variety of ways, you have to go out of town. Nothing new or different there.
Again, does this mean that the medical community is biased, or insensitive? It comes across that way.
Certainly, medical care is a significant part of living here in the Manhattan area. Certainly, talking about problems is generally better than ignoring them. But asserting that there’s a problem is not the same as concluding soberly that such a problem exists, and it’s a far cry from determining that the root of the problem has to do with the makeup of the local medical establishment. And concluding that is yet another step away from deciding that the city government ought to do something about it.
Again, diversity, equity and inclusion are very important. Let’s get serious about it.