Taking Pride in Health Care Equality

Brad Hinrichs_2012By Bradley G. Hinrichs

American hospitals and clinics, including Rush University Medical Center, are increasingly committed to equality for their LGBT patients and staff, according to a report based on a national survey released in July by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.

A record total of 718 health care facilities nationwide (an increase of 153 percent in participation relative to the 2012 survey) have explicitly pledged themselves to equal treatment for LGBT patients. That number includes 121 of the nation’s 151 Veterans Health Administration medical centers, compared to just one VHA participant in the 2012 survey. That’s great progress!

We at Rush can be very proud of our organization’s record on the Healthcare Equality Index, the annual survey administered by the HRC Foundation. We have participated in this assessment of our policies and practices for the last five years, and have achieved a perfect score each of those years on the four foundational criteria for equitable LGBT care. This has led to our recognition as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” for the fifth year in a row; a distinction achieved by no more than four other health care facilities nationally. These key criteria include providing equitable treatment to LGBT patients and families, nondiscrimination policies for LGBT patients and employees, visitation policies granting same-sex partners and parents the same consideration and rights as different-sex partners and parents, and training in LGBT patient-centered care for key leaders as well as caregiver staff.

Another important issue for the LGBT community relates to the lack of protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We have had basic employment non-discrimination policies on the books for many decades that assure that LGBT staff cannot be subject to arbitrary and capricious treatment here. Nationally, fully-inclusive legislation called the “Employment Non-discrimination Act” that includes protections for LGBT individuals has been sent to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration, with the active support of both of Illinois’ senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk.

The Rush PRIDE organization and other fair-minded supporters recently worked together to educate the Rush community about marriage equality and to participate in the recent Chicago Pride Parade, where more than 1 million attendees saw Rush students, staff, faculty and others on the Rush float celebrating our “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” status and other progress towards full equality for the LGBT community. There’s more work to be done, but celebrating successes as they occur is an important part of the process. Thank you all at Rush who have been supportive of these progressive efforts and accomplishments!

Bradley G. Hinrichs is director of facilities planning at Rush and a member of Rush’s Diversity Leadership Council

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