As we continue to struggle with a global pandemic, less than two months after the George Floyd police killing and subsequent protests that rocked our city, HealthPartners announced earlier this month that they would be closing seven healthcare facilities across the state.
While all of these closures are hard to hear about, we want to highlight the especially painful decision that HealthPartners wants to make by closing the Riverside Clinic in Minneapolis. This clinic has been around for decades and serves one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state.
Together we have worked at Riverside for over 15 years, and along with our co-workers, we are angered and saddened by this news. As Black and Somali women who care deeply about our patients and community, we know that if the closure does happen it will hurt thousands of Minnesotans, for whom Riverside is a key part of our lives.
We know that the Riverside Clinic has been so important to the community and families it serves who otherwise would not have access to the care they need. Many of our patients walk or can get to the clinic by one bus, which is critical for people dealing with chronic health issues. What will happen to them? Will people who we saw for frequent visits travel by three buses to get to another clinic? Is that fair to ask of them?
Since the news came out, we’ve heard from patients: Where will my doctor go? How will I get to them? The impact is hitting us all. The Riverside Clinic has been a hub for the community, and both staff and patients have always felt like a family. At a time when the health care industry seems to only care about profits, it’s hard not to think that this closing is tied more to a budget spreadsheet than what is best for Minnesota families.
The clinic, which is just over three miles from where Mr. Floyd was murdered, is adjacent to the Cedar-Riverside community that is home to the largest Somali community outside of Somalia. Our clinic is a big, beautiful melting pot. Staff and patients come from every walk of life. But we also know that the communities we served have too often been left behind.
As our state reckons with our actions — and inaction — over the years that have caused us to have some of the worst racial disparities in the country, it is unacceptable that HealthPartners is closing a clinic used by so many Minnesotans who are Black, people of color, immigrant and low-income.
Why is it that this critical facility, which is an essential part of our community, is being chosen for closure? How is this decision helping families? How is it going to make our state a better, more just place? The news of this plan devastated us all.
We also need to mention that these closures, which will hurt thousands of families and hundreds of workers, come as HealthPartners posted $7.1B in revenue in 2019, up 6% from 2018. Even if “tough” decisions were needed, why is the clinic that served as a critical hub for communities of color one of the prominent locations being shuttered?
We heard rumors about closing, but we never thought it could be true. The Riverside Clinic serves too many people that need us: Parents with children who have grown up in our clinic; elderly patients who know we’ll have someone there they know and who speaks the language they are most comfortable communicating in. Closing the clinic would leave so many people high and dry. Patients are going to suffer because of this.
We love our clinic, our co-workers and our patients. We know our state has so much work to do to address the racial disparities that have become international news following George Floyd’s murder. It’s hard to see how closing a beloved clinic in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state does anything but set back the critical work we need to be doing to make our state a place that finally works for all of us.