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Medical center warns it may deny care to patients making ‘offensive comments’ about race, gender of staff

Shot of a young female nurse looking stressed out while standing at a window in a hospital

Milford Regional Medical Center’s announcement about rules for its “inclusive environment” caused a recent stir with a warning to potential patients that they must follow a specific code of conduct to access their services.

Dr. Peter Smulowitz, chief medical officer at the Massachusetts Medical Center, released a now-unlisted video on the hospital’s official YouTube channel Jan. 3 explaining how not just staff, but patients themselves, are held accountable for causing offense, ranging from rhetoric to a hostile tone of voice.

“Everyone should expect a safe, caring and inclusive environment in all our spaces,” Smulowitz said. “Our patient and visitor code of conduct helps us meet this goal. Words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile or harassing are not welcome and will not be tolerated.”

He specified that some examples of unacceptable conduct would be “offensive comments about others’ race, ethnicity, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other personal traits; refusal to see a clinician or other staff member based on these personal traits; aggressive or intimidating behavior, physical or verbal threats and assaults; sexual or vulgar words or actions; and disrupting another patient’s care or experience.”

Smulowitz warned that “body language and tone of voice are also important parts of communication.”

The doctor said, however, people would be given a chance to explain themselves should they be accused of such conduct.

“If we believe you have violated our code with unwelcome words or actions, you will be given a chance to explain your point of view. We will always carefully consider your response before we make any decisions about future care at Milford Regional,” he said.

The official website laid out some potential scenarios of how the medical center will respond to infractions, including the denial of non-emergency treatment.

“Some violations of this [c]ode may lead to patients being asked to make other plans for their care. For serious or repeated violations, future non-emergency care and visitation rights at Milford Regional may require review, though we expect this to be rare,” the entry on the website read.

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