Standing Up For Your Healthcare Rights
January 20, 2012 by Tom Sullivan
On November 13, Kathryn Wilderotter was in an accident in Takoma Park, Md. and rushed to nearby Washington Adventist Hospital. Linda Cole arrived at the emergency room soon after and asked to see her partner, but she was told, "No, you cannot go back." However, when Kathryn’s sister arrived ten minutes later, she was told "Oh, we have family here now. You can go back."
This occurred nearly a year after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established regulations requiring hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to adopt written policies and procedures regarding patients’ visitation rights, including a prohibition on visitation discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This incident is a stark reminder that discrimination can still occur if steps are not taken to fully educate hospital staff on these important Federal protections for LGBT families. Since a policy that states “we treat everyone equally” has not always worked for LGBT patients, let’s get specific. A clearly stated LGBT-inclusive visitation policy is an important first step.
That is where HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) comes in. The HEI is an annual survey of healthcare facility policies related to LGBT patients and their families. It can serve as an organizational assessment tool and assist hospitals in modifying their policies to make them LGBT inclusive. HRC encourages Washington Adventist Hospital, and all hospitals, to participate in the HEI 2012 survey, to help avoid future incidents of discrimination.
Kat and Linda knew that what happened to them was wrong, having recently attended the HRC National Dinner where the hospital visitation regulations were included in President Obama’s keynote address. They took action. The couple has filed a complaint about the incident with The Joint Commission (the nation’s largest healthcare accreditation organization) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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