Lawmakers Call for Reform of Statewide Health Care Association

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Pressure is mounting as State and local lawmakers alongside Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness call for the comprehensive review of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA) following racist remarks hurled by CEO Bruce Johnson towards Aunt Martha’s President and CEO Raul Garza.

“This isn’t just one incident of a racist comment. This was a sustained campaign of intimidation by not just Bruce Johnson but several members of the executive board,” Sandoval said in a statement released to press. “I call for these hearings because we have an obligation to stand up for one another and what is right to ensure that racist conduct—no matter who engages in it—will not be tolerated.” An official complaint of discrimination against Bruce Johnson and the IPHCA Executive Committee was filed last week by Garza. Garza is a U.S.-born citizen and 12-year veteran of the United States Air Force.

Johnson resigned Monday, July 16th after he admitted to making racist remarks during a meeting with Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA). Just four days later, six members of the IPHCA’s Executive Committee resigned. Public concerns surfaced with the IPHCA following a June 20th meeting between staff from Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness and staff from the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, where it was reported that Johnson made racist remarks towards Garza. Johnson’s remarks included questioning if President Trump allowed Garza back into the country following a recent trip to Mexico. Johnson continued pressing Garza on whether he brought family from Mexico back to the United States and if he lived in Little Village, a neighborhood of Chicago with a high population of Latinos.

“I am shocked and saddened to learn of the abhorrent behavior displayed by Mr. Bruce Johnson, former CEO of your organization, towards a person of Mexican-American descent who not only exemplifies great character but is the embodiment of what we in this society should hold as the ideal of the American Dream. I was equally shocked and dismayed that a group of his peers showed such disregard and lack of respect for the indignity that Mr. Raul Garza endured. Such treatment is unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” said Commissioner García.

Senator Sandoval is urging the committee to investigate why Johnson was “allowed to behave as he did,” and “why it took the Executive Committee so long to conduct an investigation.” Aunt Marth’s is a private, not-for-profit agency providing coordinate health care and social services for family members of all ages in underserved communities across Illinois. IPHCA, formed in 1982, aims to improve the health status of medically underserved populations by providing comprehensive health care that is accessible.
“It is absolutely essential that widespread reform occurs throughout the Association. I want the members of the Executive Committee who were responsible for investigating and responding to this matter to seriously consider resigning from their leadership positions. I also want to see Mr. Garza play an integral role in the new Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the Board by being appointed the first Chair of that committee,” said State Rep. Jaime Andrade.

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