The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the storied healthcare facility of U.S. presidents and wounded warriors, is making history again, becoming the first U.S. active military medical facility to earn the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality designation.
The world’s largest military hospital is joined this year by a growing number of healthcare facilities in the South in embracing LGBT-inclusive policies and practice, according to a report released today by the HRC Foundation.
“We are thrilled that a record number of healthcare facilities — from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to an increasing number of hospitals in the South — have committed to providing fully LGBT-inclusive healthcare for the patients they care for each year, as well as to protecting their LGBT workers from discrimination,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Over the last several years, our nation has made substantial progress on LGBT equality, including historic gains in the availability of full-inclusive healthcare.”
“I commend leaders of these inclusive facilities for using HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index as a roadmap, and for advancing equality in health care for our nation’s LGBT patients, their families, and for medical providers and caregivers,” Griffin said. “We still have much work to do to achieve full equality, but today we have a record number of leaders setting an example for other healthcare facilities across our nation.”
A record 2,061 healthcare facilities are rated in the HRC Foundation’s 2016 HEI survey, up 37 percent from the last survey. And an unprecedented 496 healthcare centers from all regions of the U.S. earned the Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality designation this year, with substantial gains in the South — including in Alabama, where three major Birmingham-area facilities were awarded leader status for the first time.
While every region of the country saw an increase in the number of medical facilities earning HEI leader status this year, the South stepped up with the second highest number of new leaders. It now ranks second only to the Northeast region in the number of hospitals and healthcare facilities committing to LGBT-competent and inclusive care.
Walter Reed, which admits more than 13,000 service members annually to its facilities and treats nearly 30,000 each year in its emergency department, joins the nation’s system of veterans hospitals as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality. The U.S. Veterans Health Administration and an overwhelming majority of its hospitals began participating in the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) in 2013.
To earn healthcare leader status, facilities must have established LGBT-inclusive patient non-discrimination policies, as well as employment non-discrimination policies that are fully LGBT-inclusive. They also ensure equal visitation rights for LGBT people, patients and families; and their staff members participate in training in LGBT patient-centered care.
“Walter Reed joins diverse healthcare facilities across the U.S. that are making tremendous strides toward LGBT patient-centered care,” said Tari Hanneman, author of the HEI and Deputy Director of the HRC Foundation’s Health and Aging Program. “In unprecedented numbers, they are committing to fully LGBT-inclusive policies for both their patients and their employees.”
Leadership shown by Walter Reed, the nation’s veterans hospitals, and other medical facilities embracing LGBT inclusion is sorely needed. While a record number of healthcare centers earned leader designation this year, too many continue to fall short in providing vital patient and employee non-discrimination protections.
Nearly half of the facilities that were independently researched by HRC Foundation staff performed poorly, particularly in the area of non-discrimination policies: only 58 percent have patient non-discrimination policies that include both sexual orientation and gender identity; and just 53 percent have LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination policies.
And four states have no facilities earning leader status this year: Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
The HEI’s findings demonstrate the patchwork of protections nationwide for LGBT patients and their families, as well as LGBT healthcare facility employees, underscoring the need for uniform federal non-discrimination protections. LGBT Americans are facing a harsh choice between healthcare facilities that have policies that guarantee them equal care, and those that have consistently failed to take steps to ensure all patients receive inclusive, compassionate and respectful care.
The good news? The number of active HEI participants continues to grow, and their leaders are striving to meet HRC’s criteria for equal treatment of LGBT patients, as well as employees, and are succeeding. Many are going well beyond the survey’s criteria to do right by all their patients and workers by adopting additional HRC-recommended best practices, including offering employees trans-inclusive health insurance coverage.