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Some Hospitals Falling Short of Protecting for Gay Patients

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, June 8, 2010

An evaluation of 200 of the nation's largest hospitals found that 42% currently do not have policies in place to fully protect gay and lesbian patients from restrictions based on sexual orientation, according to a report released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.

These policies, though, may soon by changing. In April, President Obama requested that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius initiate rulemaking to lift restrictions on unrelated visitors to act as surrogate decision makers and to visit hospitalized patients. The ruling would affect hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicare, is expected in several months.

While the "good news is the healthcare landscape is about to change dramatically . . . the sad reality it the status quo is very poor," said Joe Solmonese, HRC's president, in a teleconference on Monday. He called for hospitals to move ahead of the proposed legislation to draft more inclusive policies on their own.

Kaiser Permanente, which recently updated its Patients' Bill of Rights to protect lesbian and gay patients and their families, from discrimination, on Monday became the first large health network to have a fully inclusive non discrimination policy for gay individuals. Kaiser Permanente's network of 36 hospitals also achieved Top Performer status in the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index.

The survey also included data from 178 facilities across the country that voluntarily provided information on patient non discrimination, visitation, cultural competency training, and employment non discrimination issues. Of the 178 facilities nationwide, 11 individual facilities and one network of 36 hospitals received "perfect" ratings.

Forty two facilities (one network representing 31 hospitals, 8 individual hospitals and 3 clinics) received top performer status (aside from Kaiser Permanente):

  • Advocate Illinois Masonic, Chicago;
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA;
  • Beth Israel Medical Center, New York;
  • Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, NY;
  • Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston;
  • Group Health Central Hospital, Seattle;
  • LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Los Angeles;
  • Penobscot Community Health Center, Bangor, ME;
  • Rush University Medical Center, Chicago;
  • University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, San Franscisco;
  • University of Texax MD The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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