A black South Carolina doctor says his patients come from miles away just to be seen by a black doctor. To make matters worse, the doctor alleges that the hospital for which he works has intentionally discriminated against him, making it difficult for him to maintain his practice.
Dr. Jonathan Jennings, a doctor at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, says patients cross state lines to be treated by him, according to the Post and Courier.
“I have people that come from as far as Savannah. I have people that come from Moncks Corner, everywhere. They come and they drive past dozens of physicians because they want to be taken care of by a black doctor,” he said.
Jennings is one of a small number of black doctors in the state, and in America. According to the Courier‘s report, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that less than 4 percent of all physicians in the United States are African-American. In South Caroline, 5.8 percent of doctors are black.
Jennings filed a lawsuit against Roper St. Francis last month, alleging, according to the Courier, that the hospital “denied him adequate work space and consistently sabotaged his ability to practice medicine because he is black. Jennings said it’s clear hospital leaders favor white doctors because they hire so few black ones.”
“I am the only minority physician in that entire hospital — period,” he said.
Roper St. Francis has denied the allegations.
Al Jazeera reported on racial disparities in health care in a 2014 article.
“The legacy of years of racial discrimination has led to a disproportionately low number of African-American doctors. A 2009 Health System Change report, for example, found that the physician workforce was about 74 percent white and 4 percent black, while the U.S. population as a whole was 69 percent white and 12 percent black during the same year.”
Many African-Americans and Latinos view the health care system as racist and routinely choose doctors of their own race.
An expert shed some light on one of the reasons for the low numbers of black doctors.
“Let’s go back to the number of African-American doctors who finish medical school — it continues to be low,” said Dr. Thad Bell, former director of diversity at MUSC, who was interviewed by the Courier “It’s better than it was 10 years ago, but it’s nowhere close to being where it needs to be to satisfy the current number of African-Americans we have in our state.”