The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) recently entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in an effort to resolve a complaint brought by a borough council president alleging that closing Braddock Hospital would have a disproportionate or disparate impact on the community's African American population. Citing financial losses and underutilization of the hospital, UPMC decided to close Braddock Hospital effective early 2010. Community members were fearful of potential difficulties regarding access to care for a predominantly minority community in which many residents were dependent on public transportation.
The agreement, an extension of initiatives UPMC asserts it had committed to prior to the OCR complaint, requires UPMC to offer transportation services, health screening and wellness programs, expanded hours and services at Braddock Family Health Center clinic and additional community outreach. The agreement will remain in effect three years and requires UPMC to make quarterly reports to OCR regarding compliance. OCR recognized "that health care institutions are confronted with difficult economic decisions" but those "decisions must consider the impact on communities and steps must be taken consistent with their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to ameliorate that impact." The OCR's action in this case may presage greater civil rights enforcement in hospital transactions impacting minority communities.