Hospitals That Don't Hire Obese Employees Face a Dangerous Situation

BySusan Papp

When I am in need of hospital care, I want the staff to be the best, hardest working, most talented, most caring available. I do not care if they are overweight. Employing health care providers on the basis of their competence is a matter of life or death me.

The wrongheaded thought that health care institutions should disclude obese persons from staff is simplistic and dangerous. It is not at all obvious how hospitals can achieve full staffing when today, 26% to 63% of applicants would be denied the possibility of working there. And, obesity is descending upon the entire world like an avalanche, so every year fewer and fewer people would be able to work in health care, invariably lowering their professional standards for hire, and lowering your chances for survival while in hospital.

Some of this debate stems from the decision of Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, to limit the maximum BMI of new hires, to promote a professional appearance. What would be the point of hiring people not on the basis of competence but on aesthetics? You'd think that lowering insurance costs might be the aim, but by employing less competent people, you are insuring that more accidents and medical misjudgments will occur. And it is not clear whether or not a low BMI indicates cardiac health. Will it serve to demonstrate what thin looks like? Have you ever picked up a magazine or turned on a TV? Most people know what skinny looks like, most of them want to achieve the look, and most can't on their own.

Obesity is not a choice, and it is not immoral. There are myriad reasons for obesity, high on the list is a modern culture that feeds children ketchup and fries in school and calls it two vegetables. There are Federal nutritional guidelines that have been influenced by Agribusiness lobbyists to include white flour, processed sugar, whole fat milk, processed meat, ammonia and oils. There are biological components. Promoting a culture of bigotry against obese people will not improve the quality of health care, and will further diminish the research that needs to be done to cure this disease.