Marlene Barbera was scheduled for a mastectomy this month. She is in the fight of her life with breast cancer, and for more than 12 years, she’s fought that battle at Richmond Family Medical Clinic in Portland, Oregon.
Now, Marlene needs to find a new treatment team.
Why? The Richmond Family Medical Clinic is refusing to treat her because she expressed concerns over a transgender flag that was hanging in the waiting room. A single message sent to her longtime doctor has brought her entire cancer treatment to a screeching halt.
Marlene didn’t march up to the front desk and make a fuss about the flag to the staff. She didn’t take a picture and write up a social media post about it. Instead, she wrote a private message to her doctor through her MyChart portal that shared her feelings about the banner.
Marlene had faced rape and death threats from trans activists on social media in the past, and is concerned with the movement’s impact on women’s rights. She did not feel comfortable having such a political statement displayed in a healthcare setting.
The doctor had been treating Marlene for over a decade. While Marlene believed her message was for the doctor’s eyes only, it was viewed and passed around by other staff at the clinic.
From that point on, Marlene’s experience with the clinic became hostile. An angry receptionist refused to patch her through to her doctor to leave messages regarding blood test results. After both talking in circles about it, the receptionist hung up on her.
A few weeks later, Marlene was notified by Stein Berger, a practice manager at Oregon Health Science University, that she was getting discharged and banned for “ongoing disrespectful and hurtful remarks about our LGBTQ community and staff.”
Below is a screenshot of the message, provided by Marlene to Reduxx:
“Effective immediately, you are discharged from receiving medical care at the Richmond Family Medicine Clinic,” Berger wrote. “… Please note that you are also now dismissed from all OHSU Family Medicine clinics, including Immediate Care clinics.”
Marlene would be on her own—not only for her ongoing cancer treatment, but also for any needs that might require visiting urgent care. After 12 years, she was dismissed. Just like that.
Barbera told Reduxx her anxiety and depression have worsened throughout the whole ordeal. “Now I have no primary care doctor and nowhere else to go,” Marlene says. “I have been made to feel like a worthless nothing.”