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Two San Diego hospital systems retain honors as "Leaders" in LGBT healthcare

SAN DIEGO – Scripps Health and UC San Diego Health System have repeated their honors as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality,” according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s LGBT Healthcare Equality Index 2013.

The annual index, which was released today during a news conference at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., promotes equitable and inclusive care for LGBT patients and their families.

Mikel Wilson, director of marketing and communications at Scripps Health, was quoted in the 2013 index under testimonials. He said:

“Participating in the HEI is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that our commitment to excellence includes the LGBT community. Although we have always practiced equality among our patients and employees, the HEI helped us discover that we could be more specific and inclusive in the actual wording of our policies. We learned that having protections written into policies helps clarify our already established nondiscrimination practices so that our patients and employees know without doubt that we firmly stand with them.”

American hospitals and clinics are increasingly committed to equality for their LGBT patients, according to the foundation. The new report indicates that a record total of 718 healthcare facilities nationwide, including 121 veterans’ medical centers, have explicitly pledged themselves to equal treatment for LGBT patients.

“The country’s healthcare facilities are leading figures in our nation’s movement toward full equality and inclusion for LGBT Americans,” HRC president Chad Griffin said. “The Department of Veterans Affairs’ participation in the HEI is another example of President Obama’s unwavering commitment to those who put their lives on the line for the country they love, regardless of who they love.”

The report details the results of the most recent Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The 718 facilities included in the HEI 2013 represent a 153% increase in participation over last year’s survey. An unprecedented 74% of HEI 2013 respondents won recognition as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality” after meeting four foundational criteria for equitable LGBT care, a 199% increase in facilities achieving this status.

In a major breakthrough, 121 of the nation’s 151 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers participated in the HEI 2013, compared to just one VHA participant in the HEI 2012. Nearly 80% of the participating VHA facilities were awarded Equality Leader status in the HEI 2013, as they sought to welcome LGBT veterans who have served their country.

“We were pleased to have this opportunity to foster a more inclusive environment for our LGBT Veterans and their families,” said Robert L. Jesse, MD, PhD, VHA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health. “Our participation in the HEI 2013 exemplifies our untiring efforts in the pursuit of health equity for all of our veterans.”

The HEI helps hospitals assess themselves against established best practices and ensure that they are complying with legal, regulatory and accreditation requirements for LGBT non-discrimination. The HEI 2013 participants were congratulated for their explicit commitment to non-discrimination by Leon Rodriguez, director of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

“The Obama administration and our department are deeply concerned about equality for all Americans,” Rodriguez said. “It is gratifying to see so many healthcare facilities commit themselves to the goal of equitable, unbiased care for all.”

93% of HEI 2013 participants explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients, and a record 87% ban discrimination against transgender patients. Additionally, 90% of respondents explicitly grant equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents. This represents a significant increase since the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules in 2011 requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding–nearly every hospital in America–to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people.

The HEI 2013 required participating facilities to document that employees in key work areas had received expert training in LGBT health needs. As a result, nearly 5,000 healthcare personnel nationwide, including senior administrators, participated in training provided through the HEI, a unique educational initiative.

Studies, including a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, have repeatedly shown that the LGBT community faces health disparities and healthcare discrimination and that many LGBT Americans are concerned about experiencing bias in healthcare. But as the HEI 2013 indicates, healthcare facilities are increasingly seeking to assure them that they will receive equal treatment.

“No one should have to worry about receiving discriminatory healthcare,” Griffin said. “We’re very pleased to offer hospitals and clinics a comprehensive resource for equitable care, and we celebrate all of those who used the HEI 2013 to welcome LGBT patients, employees and families.”

The HEI is funded in part by grants from Pfizer Inc. and PhRMA.

Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s LGBT Healthcare Equality Index 2013