A 121-page report prepared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Commission on Healthcare Systems Transformation includes many recommendations for improving health care delivery that will benefit members of the LGBTQ community, according to gay former D.C. Council member David Catania, who served as co-chair of the commission.
Bowser and members of the commission announced the release of the report and details of its findings at a Dec. 19 news conference at the John A. Wilson Building where the mayor’s office is located.
“In the District, we are proud to have world-class health care resources and to have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation, but inequalities still exist and we know we can do better,” the mayor said.
“Just as we are focused on closing gaps in our housing and education systems, we must act with similar urgency to transform our health care system and ensure that all Washingtonians are getting the care they need and deserve,” Bowser said.
Among the commission’s recommendations as outlined in the report that Catania told the Washington Blade would impact LGBT people in all parts of the city were the following:
• Improving access to primary, acute, and specialty care services, including behavioral health care
• Addressing health system capacity issues for inpatient, outpatient, pre-hospital and emergency room services
• Promoting an equitable geographic distribution of acute care and specialty services in communities East of the Anacostia River
Bowser appointed Catania, an attorney who currently operates a D.C.-based lobbying firm, and Sister Carol Keehan, former CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, as co-chairs of the commission.
Among those the mayor appointed to the commission as community representatives was Don Blanchon, CEO of Whitman-Walker Health System.
Catania said that although the commission’s recommendations don’t specifically address LGBTQ people as a group they cover a number of areas that, if adopted, would be helpful to LGBTQ-related health issues.
“We didn’t break into considerations of particular geographic groups so much or particular demographic groups,” he told the Blade. “It was just where is the need and how do we solve the need,” he said.
“So I think there are a number of items that are very important to the LGBT community that are covered here,” he said. “We have a higher than average rate of substance abuse, for instance, so the focus on building up primary care on substance abuse is very important.”
Added Catania: “I just think across the board, if you happen to be an LGBT community member living in Ward 7 and 8 you need a first-rate hospital in your community. And of course there are LGBT community members in Ward 7 and 8. So to the extent we can tackle that issue we benefit all of our citizens equally.”
Blanchon said the commission’s findings and recommendations impact LGBT people in a broader way related to equality.
“I think fundamentally when you look at the commission’s work there was this thought process of how do we embrace diversity, inclusion, and equality in all of the work of the commission,” he said. “You really think about cultural competency and what it means to get care that affirms you for who you are,” he said in referring to one of the recommendations for cultural competency of health care providers, including doctors.
“So this means a transgender person going to the emergency room or coming to Whitman-Walker and not being misgendered,” he said. “It means a woman who is bisexual or lesbian not always being asked why don’t you want birth control.”