Tom Joyner Morning Show commentator Jacque Reid goes “Inside her Story” with nurse Tonya Battle and her attorney Julie Gafkay in an exclusive interview about Battle’s suit against her employer, the Hurley Medical Center, over being banned from touching a white man’s baby after he requested that no black nurses touch his son.
Read the full interview below.
TOM JOYNER: And from our New York studios lets go to Jacque Reid and Inside Her Story. Good morning, Jacque.
JACQUE REID: Good morning, Tom, Sybil and Jay. Listen, for anyone who thinks we are living in a post racial society, this story out of Michigan; a nurse is suing a hospital where she works, the Hurley Medical Center, after she was asked not to work on a newborn baby in her unit. And it turns out that the father asked that no African-American nurses work on his child at that hospital and allegedly, the hospital granted his request. I’m going Inside Her Story with Nurse Tonya Battle and her attorney, Julie Gafkay. Good morning, ladies.
TONYA BATTLE: Good morning.
JACQUE REID: Tonya, let me start with you. Tell us what happened. How exactly did you find out that you nor any other African-American nurse could not work on this particular child.
TONYA BATTLE: I was assigned to this child, the father of the baby came in to visit his baby. I introduced myself, told him I was taking care of the baby, checked his ID band and he said that he wanted, he needed to see my supervisor. I in turn told my charge nurse. She talked to the father and that is what he told her, that he didn’t want any African-Americans taking care of his baby.
JACQUE REID: And then who came to you? A supervisor? Or was there a note on the chart? How did you, how was that message related to you?
TONYA BATTLE: My nurse manager had a meeting, I guess with the father, who requested that to her, and then she called me at home and told me that, yes, we’re going to grant his request.
JACQUE REID: What about in the delivery room, Tonya. I mean do you know if there were any black doctors or nurses in there when the baby was delivered?
TONYA BATTLE: No, I don’t know about the delivery room.
JACQUE REID: And I read something about a swastika tattoo. Did the father have one? Or what are those details?
TONYA BATTLE: I didn’t see the swastika, but according to my charge nurse that night, he pulled up his sleeve and showed her what she believed to be was a tattoo of a swastika.
TOM JOYNER: Is that legal?
SYBIL WILKES : To have a swastika?
TOM JOYNER: No, no, no. The request to …
JACQUE REID: No, to make this, no. Right, Julie, let me bring you in here.
TOM JOYNER: No African American nurses can touch my baby. Is that legal?
JACQUE REID: Julie is Tonya’s attorney, and if this played out the way Tonya has said, legally can the hospital do this? I mean what rights do patients have?
JULIE GAFKAY : Well, in my legal opinion, and the reason the lawsuit has been brought is because it is a legal violation. It is race discrimination, and it is a violation of Tonya’s civil rights under the Equal Protection Clause. This is a public hospital, a city hospital, and they’re charged with the responsibility of following the constitution.
TOM JOYNER: So why didn’t the hospital just say; look, man, we can’t do that, that’s illegal. We’ll get sued.
JULIE GAFKAY : Well, that’s exactly what they should’ve said, initially, was hey; we don’t honor requests like that.
JACQUE REID: Now, Julie, is it possible because according to you yesterday, the hospital has not responded to your filing of this lawsuit. Is there any way that they could deny what happened, or say there was a misunderstanding based on the evidence?
TOM JOYNER: They wrote it.
JULIE GAFKAY : Based on the evidence. I feel pretty strongly in the allegation and the complaints are based on what information we have now. We physically, Tonya physically saw a note, and has a picture of a note, that was written, that said; ‘No African-American could care for this baby.’And that note was directed to written by a supervisor. And my client was directly told; you’re being reassigned. And then subsequently was called and told we’re going to honor the request. So there’s no mistake that the request was initially granted. Now what the hospital will say is after a day or two they went to the father and said; we’re going to reverse that, we’re not going to grant that request, we’re not going to do that. The problem is though; one, it was initially granted. And two, the baby was in the NICU for another 30 days, and my client was never scheduled again to be assigned to that baby where she naturally, typically would’ve been assigned to a baby like that in her are.
TOM JOYNER: How much are you suing for?
JULIE GAFKAY : We’re going to let the jury decide.
JACQUE REID: Tonya, how long have you worked at this hospital?
TONYA BATTLE: I worked there it will be 25 years in June.
TOM JOYNER: Oh.
SYBIL WILKES : Wow.
JACQUE REID: And this is the first time you’ve have that?
SYBIL WILKES : The first time …
JACQUE REID: Any other issues like this?
TONYA BATTLE: No, I’ve not come across any issues like this in my entire career.