New CPEHN-sponsored Assembly Bill Aims to Protect Californians Against Racial Bias in Hospitals

Author Details

Sarah Mizes-Tan

Communications Director
510-832-1160 x 204

Organization: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

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(SACRAMENTO, CA) –  The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) in partnership with Black Women for Wellness Action Project have co-sponsored legislation that would protect Californians against racial bias and discrimination within hospitals. AB 3161, the Equity in Health Care Act: Ensuring Safety and Accountability, would require all hospitals to report demographic data, including race, sexual orientation and age of patients who have experienced adverse health incidents within a hospital setting. It was introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland).

Currently, hospitals are required to report any events where a patient’s safety was endangered due to a preventable hospital mistake to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This includes incidents like surgical mistakes or hospital-acquired infections. AB 3161 would add a further requirement that hospitals report demographic data on patients who experience these mistakes.

“This kind of data collection is critical in advancing racial equity in health outcomes for communities of color,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “While research has found that BIPOC and other marginalized patients experience more patient safety events than white patients, we do not know the exact scale and scope of these disparities across California hospitals and healthcare facilities.” 

Research has shown that issues like maternal death or accidental hospital deaths are often the result of preventable mistakes. These problems are also more likely to happen to non-white patients as a result of systemic racism and the internal bias of providers.

“Black women and birthing people are far more likely to have negative pregnancy and birth experiences than our white counterparts, and research shows that implicit bias is a root cause,” said Onyemma Obiekea, Policy Director for Black Women for Wellness Action Project. “We know this to be true for our community’s broader experience with the healthcare system, so this bill is a critical step towards painting a clear picture of the issues, which will allow us to better challenge them and push for improved health outcomes for all of our communities.”

By collecting this kind of patient demographic data, hospitals have the information necessary to better identify and address racial health disparities. 

This bill would seek to require CDPH to review, analyze trends and publish their data on patient safety events by demographic categories. It could also ask departments to address aspects of racism and discrimination in their existing patient safety plans. 

AB 3161 is expected to be heard in the Assembly next month.