I have served the healthcare industry as a senior executive for almost thirty years. This has included operation leadership on the provider and payer sides as well as having been part of several exciting technology ventures that have changed the landscape of healthcare delivery around the world. People ask why I have stayed within one industry for such a long period. Like hepatitis, once healthcare gets into your bloodstream, it is there forever!
All kidding aside, the beauty of being part of the healthcare segment is that no two days are ever alike. It is a dynamic workplace to be within. Innovation is at an all-time high and life-altering discoveries roll out on a regular basis. Governments are pumping billions of dollars into bettering the system for all of us. Insurance companies and provider groups are banding together; asking for better efficiencies and improved outcomes! Even patients are stepping forward, and actually taking ownership of their healthcare episodes and overall wellbeing!
For the most part, it has always been a point of pride when I inform somebody I am in the thick of the healthcare revolution. I have returned to the technical side of the equation; introducing healthcare organizations to the power of “intelligent analytics.” I will resist the urge to break into an infomercial right now; instead trying to stay focused on an unbiased and non-commercial blog!
My sense of professional pride fell by the wayside earlier this week. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it exploded. I read an article that quite truly made my jaw drop. It seems that one of our hospital systems has elected to stop hiring obese employees. Not only did they make that outrageous decision; they actually publicized the fact! I reread the article on my screen, waiting to see if there was a sentence somewhere indicating that it was a joke! No, they were actually serious.
It seems that this hospital feels that it is not wise to hire the overweight. Specifically, they will not hire anybody with a BMI over 35. The actual policy states that an employee’s physique “should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients. Here is the kicker, folks; there are only six states that actually protect employees from discrimination based upon physical appearance!
Given the fact that I am an amateur bodybuilder; my BMI is hovering around 30. Nobody who has ever met me would accuse me of being borderline obese. Good thing that I did not choose to go into hospital administration; at least one hospital might hesitate to hire me!
What truly has me incensed is the fact that this hospital is stopping at just the obese! Hey, they already banned smokers from becoming employees, and now they are attacking the overweight. Why not ban red-headed women, those under the height of five and a half feet, and men with shoe sizes over twelve? Let’s isolate our workforce to those who are only visually pleasing, and will improve the image of the hospital. The only drawback I see is; who will make the determination as to what appearance is pleasing?
For that matter, why stop at employees? Let’s carry over this line of reasoning to the patients that we will see as well. Have leprosy? Sorry, we cannot take care of you! Your appearance might be unsettling for our staff and other patients. Showing up at the ER with a gunshot wound? Sorry, we do not find protruding intestines to be attractive! For that matter, we would really prefer not to have anybody within the building who is visibly sick! That would have a horrible effect on our staff morale and all of the other “better-looking” patients.
Why stop at hospitals? Let’s rally the urgent care centers, doctor’s offices, school infirmaries, and even ambulances around the glorious flag of “appearances!” From this point forward, healthcare will only be available to those who are tall, muscular, blue-eyed, and blonde haired! (Got myself covered in that on those counts!) After all, the unworthy must be willing to sacrifice themselves for those who are genetically superior!
Sound familiar? Sound eerily familiar? Almost ninety years ago, an Austrian was spouting the same words at a beer hall in Munich! Hitler’s attempt to overtake the government of the state of Bavaria failed; but it did put him in the national spotlight. It did not take long for him to begin isolating individuals based upon their appearance either! The parallels between Germany in 1923 and the United States in 2012 are unsettling, to say the least!
Rather than shun these obese individuals, why not give them an opportunity to improve themselves? Why not embrace these potential employees the same way that we are supposed to treat the patient. Do those lofty corporate hospital mission statements mean anything? Perhaps it is time for healthcare to re-examine itself. After all, is a hospital not a place for healing?