Macon Health Club members file federal discrimination complaint against Navicent Health
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Just 15 days after the Macon Health Club’s official close, 12 members of the health club have filed a complaint against Navicent Health Hospital. In a city where the minority is the majority, they say the decision had nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with colors.
A few African American members of the Macon Health Club say they’re saddened and upset by the hospital’s decision to shut down the previously whites only health club.
“It was like a dagger in my heart,” said Harold Wilson.
Wilson says he’s been a member of the Macon Health club since 1969–but not just any member–the first black member.
“I would say in the last five or so years its become as integrated as it is–and its probably one of the most integrated facilities in Macon,” he said.
That’s why he and others say closing the health club is yet another issue of race and they aren’t going down without a fight.
“The club is predominantly African American and they’re keeping a wellness center in North Macon approximately 6.3 miles from here that is a predominantly white club,” said complaint Attorney David Oedel.
Club members filed a formal complaint on Monday with the U.S Department of Health and Human services.
“Our club made an offer to buy the club back, we gave it to Navicent. We just ask that they honor their contract and give it back to us and give us the opportunity just to run the club,” said Wilson.
Navicent health cited low attendance as the reason for the closure in the midst of other plans for a brand new wellness facility just 9 blocks away from the old health club.
“The decision to close Health Club was based simply on a matter of numbers. Wellness Center, Navicent Health has over 6,000 members, and Health Club had just 430 at the time of closing. We can deliver wellness services far more cost efficiently at one location.”
The hospital also responded to the claim that the decision was based on race with this statement.
“Navicent Health is aware of reports of a complaint filed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). We will reserve comment until we decide to or are requested to respond to HHS concerning the complaint. We can say that the decision to close the Macon Health Club was because it was no longer feasible for Navicent Health to continue to subsidize the facility. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our financial resources in order to fulfill our primary mission of serving our patients with excellent care. In addition, we have a strong record of commitment to diversity. Navicent Health has always welcomed employees, patients and families from all walks of life. Our support of community activities to fund social, cultural/heritage and health events throughout the region has made us a partner of choice for hundreds of diverse groups in central Georgia. We are also a leader in helping to solve health disparities amongst minority, underserved and rural communities and received a proclamation from the Macon-Bibb County Commissioners for our work in this area.”
Wilson says he hopes others will not see this as a fight for blacks but a fight for diversity and equality.
The 27 page complaint says club members don’t want Navicent to re-open the club, they want to take it off the hospital’s hands completely and take over operations.
The complaint is not a lawsuit but attorney David Oedel says they are prepared to take steps toward filing a lawsuit if necessary. A Navicent Health spokesperson says they do not have any immediate plans for future use of the building.