On July 20, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued (press release) guidance for recipients of federal financial assistance about civil rights protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulletin focused on recipients’ compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).
In brief, OCR recommends state and local agencies, hospitals, and other health care providers receiving federal dollars, take the following steps to ensure compliance:
- Implement policies to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin;
- Select Community-Based Testing Sites and Alternate Care Sites that are accessible to racial and ethnic minority populations;
- Assess existing policies and procedures that involve COVID-19 related services to ensure they do not exclude or deny care to individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin;
- Ensure individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups will not experience excessive wait times, be rejected for hospital admissions, or denied access to intensive care units compared to similar non-minority individuals;
- If offered, deliver ambulance service, non-emergency medical transportation, and home health services to all neighborhoods within the service area, without regard to race, color, or national origin;
- Do not exclude individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin, from participating as members of a planning or advisory body;
- Do not honor patient requests for a same-race physician, nurse, or volunteer caregiver. Instead, assign staff, including physicians, nurses, and volunteer caregivers, without regard to race, color, or national origin;
- Make bed and room assignments without regard to race, color, or national origin; and
- Share non-discrimination policies and information with all stakeholders.