Hospitals & Veteran’s Medical Centers Nation Wide and Locally Top HRC’s Hospital Equality Report
HRC released their 2013 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), and for the first time, many national Veterans hospitals, including Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center here in Richmond, participated in the survey and earned the distinction of being an Equality Leader.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest of the three administrative offices that make up the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and provides training for nearly 60% of all medical residents throughout the country according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affair’s website. According to the HEI report, the VHA recommended that all 152 of their medical centers participate in the index. The suggestion was overwhelmingly heeded, with 120 VA medical centers taking part in the survey and 91 of earning Equality Leader membership.
“This award signifies that we met key criteria for equitable care and certainly that includes non-discriminatory policies for our LGBT patients and employees, a guarantee of equal visitation for our same-sex partners and parents, and LGBT health education for key staff members,” said Darlene Edwards, the public affairs officer for the McGuire VA Medical Center. “We’re very proud of this award.”
The effort to include more VHA medical centers comes in light of 2011’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the law that banned LGBT people from identifying themselves while serving in the military, “Essentially because of the military’s history with LGBT people, there are veterans who, even though there were entitled to free medical care at VAH hospitals, have been cut short,” said Shane Snowdon, author of this year’s HEI. “It felt extremely important to us to work with the whole system of veteran’s hospitals to make sure that they let LGBT people know that they are welcome to care.”
The HEI reports and rates participating hospitals on their care for and inclusion of LGBT people nationwide. This year’s index was the first to include hospitals from all 50 states, with 718 individual healthcare facilities being represented in the index with 74% of facilities being awarded Equality Leader status. This is a substantial increase from last year, where only 407 facilities participating and 57% were designated Equality Leaders.
Three Virginian VA medical centers took part of the push for VA involvement; Hampton Medical Center, Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center, and Salem Medical Center. All three earned the coveted Equality Leader distinction. Seven Bon Secours Health System Hospitals, including St. Mary’s Hospital and Richmond Community Hospital, also earned the Equality Leader title.
Participation in the index is completely voluntarily and done through an online survey. HRC encourages healthcare facilities to participate in the survey, to meet the standards of their Joint Commission and the CMS Conditions of Participation, and to be educated on LGBT patient needs in the field of healthcare.
To be considered a 2013 “Equality Leader” by the HRC, hospitals had to answer ‘yes’ to 13 specific questions in the 44-question survey. Those who answered yes to the 13 questions that encompass the Core Four Leader Criteria had to provide additional written documentation to be reviewed by HRC staff to maintain accuracy. The HRC also requires that participating facilities to publicize their new policies, “It doesn’t do any good for a committee to approve a policy if it isn’t made known – we ask for a website or a pdf of a brochure.” said Snowdon.
The Core Four Leader Criteria ensure that hospitals include policies that are non-discriminatory for patients and potential employees, have policies for equal visitation rights, and provide training in caring for LGBT patients. The HEI also made measures to include the complete LGBT spectrum, by having questions regarding non-discriminatory policies protect “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” An increase in facilities banning “gender identity” patient discrimination jumped from 76% to 87% and 75% to 85% in “gender identity” employment discrimination.
HRC provided a number of testimonials from medical professionals inside their press release when they announced the 2013 HEI. Kinneil Coltman, DHA, said after his Greenville, NC, Health System was ranked as a leader in the HEI for the first time, he received an email from someone who lived out-of-state, but had parents who lived in his service area. “He said he had always been fearful that he or his partner would get sick while visiting and be forced to see care at a hospital that might discriminate against them” said Coltman. “After seeing our ranking as a Leader on the HEI, he said he no longer carried that fear.”
Only two Virginia hospitals, University of Virginia Medical Center and Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, participated in the HEI without becoming Equality Leaders. Virginia Commonwealth University’s MCV hospital did not take part in the survey.
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