Andres Gonzalez, VP and Chief Diversity Officer at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin joined i4cp’s weekly D&I Action Call September 22nd to chat with call leader and i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board Chair Jacqui Robertson about some of his organization’s responses to the pandemic and strategies for driving greater racial equity.
Key Ideas Shared Today:
- Thoughtfully supporting frontline healthcare workers. Known as an employer of choice, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin is headquartered in Milwaukee and has a workforce of about 14,000. The organization’s system of five hospitals and about 40 health centers and clinics serves patients in eastern Wisconsin and beyond.
To provide patient care during the pandemic, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin committed to supporting the safety and well-being of its clinical and frontline employees. Among its innovative approaches, the organization:
- Provided free hotel rooms to frontline staff who needed rest and accommodations that would not put their families at risk
- Served free food to staff during working hours
- Provided free takeout food to ensure exhausted personnel didn’t have to worry about cooking after long shifts
- Provided staff with personal protective equipment to ensure safety
- Making testing available to communities in need. When the pandemic necessitated COVID-19 testing, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin took a leadership role to ensure that distrustful and underserved communities—and their high-risk residents—could access the services they needed.
Gonzalez says that involved alliances with other healthcare organizations and non-profits to provide testing sites in or near what he terms communities’ “medical homes.” These are trusted locations in underserved areas where residents can receive health services that are “culturally and linguistically appropriate.”
In some cases, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin helped with facilities or provided care teams, as well. Further, the organization produced public service announcements and messaging in languages represented in local communities to ensure effective communication and education.
- Proactively working to combat racism and ensure healthcare equity. When a police killing of a Black man in Milwaukee occurred in 2016, Gonzalez and other leaders at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin realized their leadership in the local healthcare industry demanded that the organization take a proactive approach to racism and healthcare equity.
Gonzalez’s team recommended the organization ready itself and staff. Step one involved identifying issues, such as communications – who would represent the organization and what would messaging be? How would the organization reach out to the community? The site of the shooting was a community with high unemployment, low education levels, and lack of healthcare access.
Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin opened a health center in the area to provide care appropriate to the local culture and made needed language capabilities available. “We became a true medical home for the community,” Gonzalez says. The organization ramped up its response by bringing in social services providers to make the health center a one-stop shop where local citizens could not only get healthcare, but other services they needed, too (transportation, food, etc.). Further, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin created employment and development pathways for local residents, even hiring them into the healthcare system.
- Offering language services that create a win/win/win. To better serve patients with limited proficiencies in English, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin did a $2 million overhaul of its language services capabilities. The function, which reports to Gonzalez, has moved from limited scope and resources to serving the entire Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin healthcare system.
Currently, says Gonzalez, the organization has 25 interpreters (most Spanish speakers, but others able to address local needs for Russian, Arabic, American sign language, and more). The interpreters often work via Skype, but can also do in-person and telephone interpretation. Translators ensure that documents are available in appropriate languages to ensure patient understanding. Gonzalez says the organization’s translators are internationally certified so that consent forms and other legal documents are handled accurately and professionally. He calls the language services capabilities a win/win/win – for the organization and its bottom line, for Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin patients, and for non-English-speaking communities served.
Also on the call:
- An instant poll asked call attendees if their organizations had made a specific commitment to strive to be anti-racist (i.e., active anti-racism policies, practices, and behavior expectations).
- 39% responded yes, internally and externally
- 21% said, yes, internally
- 29% said no
- The remainder chose other
- A second poll asked what kind of language service accommodations organizations had begun or augmented to support increased use of virtual meetings.
Access a recording of the full D&I Action Call on i4cp’s Employer Resource Center.
- 39% said they didn’t know, and the same percentage indicated their organizations had made no accommodations
- Of those indicating they’d taken action, small percentages cited closed captioning, sign language services, and/or translation services