The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization – today called Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Ind., to immediately adopt an LGBT inclusive patient nondiscrimination policy and train all hospital staff on compliance in the wake of a recent incident experienced by a transgender woman who faced degrading treatment at the hospital.
On July 18, Erin Vaught, a transgender woman, went to the emergency room at Ball Memorial, accompanied by her wife and their son. She was seeking treatment for what she suspected was a lung infection. According to an account of the incident published in the Muncie Star Press, Vaught faced degrading treatment at the hands of numerous hospital staff. At one point, Vaught’s wife was asked by a nurse, “So is it a he or a she? Or a he-she?” In the end, after a two-hour wait without any medical treatment, Vaught was told “we don’t know how to go about treating someone with your condition,” referring to her gender history.
“No one should be forced to pick and choose which hospital to go to for safe and respectful treatment,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The incident at Ball Memorial Hospital is a sad reminder of discrimination and hostility faced by LGBT patients in hospitals across the country. Transgender patients often face the worst of these discriminatory actions.”
This incident occurs in the same year that both the Federal government and the nation’s largest healthcare accrediting organization have taken strong positions on nondiscrimination policies for LGBT patients. In June 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published draft rules that will require all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding – nearly every hospital in America – to protect the visitation and healthcare decision-making rights of LGBT people. In January 2010, the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies healthcare facilities, announced new, fully inclusive patient non-discrimination standards as part of their accreditation process.
“The lesson from this incident is clear – vague policy statements are not addressing the problem,” said Solmonese. “It is time for every hospital to adopt LGBT-inclusive patient nondiscrimination policies and train every hospital employee on compliance. Simply saying ‘We treat everyone the same’ is not working.”
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation released its latest Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) report in June, finding that the vast majority of U.S. healthcare facilities don’t have LGBT-inclusive patient policies. The HEI surveys healthcare facilities across the country on policies related to patient non-discrimination, visitation, cultural competency training, and employment non-discrimination. Of the 178 participating facilities nationwide, only 11 individual facilities and one hospital network received perfect ratings. The HRC Foundation provides hospitals with comprehensive resources to help ensure healthcare equality for LGBT people.
More information, including model policy language, is available at http://www.hrc.org/HEI.