Report: Carolinas hospitals lack inclusive patient protections

HRC Healthcare Index ranks hospitals, patient policies

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: June 7, 2010 in News

A new report released this month reveals each of the major Carolinas hospitals lack inclusive patient rights protections.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, released its 2010 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) on June 7. The report ranks six North Carolina hospitals who opted to return a completed HEI survey. Those hospitals included Duke University Hospital and Greensboro’s Moses Cone Health System’s Behavioral Health Center, Moses H. H Cone Memorial Hospital, Wesly Long Community Hospital, Women’s Hospital of Greensboro and Reidsville’s Annie Penn Hospital.

The HEI ranked hospitals using seven criteria: whether they included “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their patients’ bill of rights and non-discrimination polices, if they provided equal visitation access for same-sex couples and same-sex parents of patients, if they offered “LGBT Cultural Competency Training” for hospital staff and if “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were included in their organizations’ equal employment opportunity policies.

All six of the Tar Heel hospitals completing the survey indicated they included “sexual orientation” in their employment polices. Only one, Duke University Hospital, also included “gender identity.” Duke was also the only hospital to include “sexual orientation” in its patients’ bill of rights.

In a related sampling of 200 of the nation’s largest hospitals, HRC researched publicly-available patients’ bills of rights for information regarding LGBT inclusion. Thirteen Carolinas hospitals were listed in the sampling, including the six hospitals participating in the HEI. Only seven out of the 13 include “sexual orientation” in their patients’ bill of rights. None include “gender-identity.”

The lack of fully-inclusive protections at Carolinas hospitals reveals an interesting disconnect. Many of the hospitals are affiliated with progressive colleges or universities, and many are in progressive cities. In 2008, North Carolina officials changed the statewide Patients’ Bill of Rights to include visitation rights for same-sex couples. Further, some of the hospitals without LGBT-inclusive patient protections do offer employment protections on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”

The disconnect between patient treatment, employee treatment and written policy is a reflection of much needed continued education for hospital administrators, Fred Sainz, deputy director of the HRC Foundation Family Project, told qnotes and other media in a conference call on the report.

Tom Sullivan, deputy director of the HRC Foundation Family Report, said it was important for hospitals to include LGBT protections in written policies. “We constantly hear from people who have bad experiences,” he said, noting that some instances of unequal treatment occur in hospitals known generally for the LGBT-friendliness.

“Our standard is for the explicit language to be included in the policies to eliminate the possibility of any confusion by staff who serve the patients,” Sullivan said.

Carolinas HealthCare System’s Carolinas Medical Center and other hospitals across the Carolinas were also sent surveys. Those institutions opted not to return a completed survey. Carolinas HealthCare System is the largest medical provider in the region, with over 30 hospitals, 500 care facilities and 44,000 employees.

Carolinas Healthcare Equality Index 2010

Healthcare facilities that provided voluntary data

Patient Rights Visitation Training Employment Policy
Hospital Name Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Partner Parental Sexual Orientation Gender Identity
Duke University Hospital Y N N N N Y Y
Behavioral Health Center N N N N N Y N
Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital N N N N N Y N
Wesley Long Community Hospital N N N N N Y N
Women’s Hospital of Greensboro N N N N N Y N

info: View HRC’s entire 2010 Healthcare Equality Index online at: hrc.org/hei2010/