More hospitals protect gay patients--but not staff--from discrimination

On the heels of New York's recent legalization of same-sex marriage comes a report that a growing number of U.S. hospitals are protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients against discrimination. But the same doesn't always hold true for their own employees, reports the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC).

Nearly 90 percent of healthcare respondents to an HRC survey say their organization includes sexual orientation in its Patient's Bill of Rights and/or non-discrimination policy, and almost 60 percent include gender identity in those policies, according to HRC's latest Healthcare Equality Index. Fifty-two percent grant same-sex couples equal visitation access as different-sex couples and next of kin. And 48 percent of healthcare facilities grant same-sex parents equal visitation access as different-sex parents for their children.

However, the report reveals a few discrepancies with regard to hospitals' inclusive policies. Only 64 percent bar hiring discrimination based on gender identity. And roughly half of respondents don't offer LGBT cultural competency training for staff. An even smaller percentage requires such training, according the report.

"Too many LGBT Americans are denied healthcare or are afraid to seek it because of discrimination and intimidation," said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement. "HEI participants understand that LGBT healthcare equality is a goal fundamental to the healthcare profession, and it is linked to key business incentives such as promoting quality care, reducing risk, complying with regulations, increasing market share and improving employee satisfaction."

The 2011 HEI is just one of several recent efforts to enhance LGBT healthcare and eliminate health disparities. In fact, just yesterday HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a plan to integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013, as well as begin a process to collect information on gender identity. And just last month, public hospitals in New York City became the first public healthcare system in the nation to mandate LGBT cultural competency training for all staff members are to improve providers' knowledge about the health needs of LGBT patients.

To learn more:
- read the HRC press release
- check out the HEI report (.pdf)