September 16, 2020 at 11:04 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
HRC examines hospital policies, impact of COVID on LGBTQ people
Healthcare Equality Index, gay news, Washington Blade
Ty Cobb, HRC Foundation’s senior director of Strategic Initiative and Research, said the report’s data was obtained from a sample of 12,000 people. (Photo courtesy of the HRC Foundation)

A greater number of the nation’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities have adopted policies and practices in the past year providing equal treatment and support for LGBTQ patients, visitors, and employees, according to the 13th annual Healthcare Equality Index report released Aug. 31 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The report says a record 765 hospitals and other health care facilities participated in the annual Healthcare Equality Index survey at a time when they faced unprecedented challenges in caring for patients in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It says 495 of the hospitals and other facilities participating in the survey earned a top score of 100 on their LGBTQ-related policies and practices.

In a separate report released on Sept. 4, the HRC Foundation provides national survey research data showing that during most of the nation’s first phase “reopening” period related to the COVID pandemic, LGBTQ people are “still 30 percent more likely than the general population to be experiencing higher unemployment rates.”

The report says the data also show that LGBTQ people are 20 percent more likely than the general population to have experienced a reduction in work hours during the reopening period. According to the report, the data, collected in partnership with the D.C.-based market research and polling services company PSB Insights, show that LGBTQ people are 50 percent more likely to have taken a pay cut than the general population.

“As some states and municipalities across the country have begun to institute policies for reopening their economies, significant attention must be paid to communities who are most vulnerable and living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identifies,” the report says. “New data and analysis from PSB and HRC now show that LGBTQ people are being left behind even as some businesses and public spaces across the country try to reopen,” the report states.

The report, entitled COVID-19 Continues to Adversely Impact LGBTQ People, provides these additional findings:
• The LGBTQ population was 20 percent more likely than the general population to have experienced a reduction in work hours since some states initiated reopening policies.
• LGBTQ people of color are 150 percent more likely to have taken a pay cut than the general population since some states began reopening policies.
• LGBTQ people of color are 44 percent more likely and transgender people are 125 percent more likely than the general population to have had a reduction in work hours since states initiated reopening policies.
• HRC and PSB data show that 73 percent of the general population and 78 percent of the LGBTQ population preferred containing the virus over reopening the economy before the states initiated policies to reopen.
• As parts of the economy reopened, 69 percent of the general population preferred containing the virus over reopening the economy and 80 percent of LGBTQ people preferred containing the virus.

“As people continue to go back to work, LGBTQ people will also continue to face elevated health risks associated with the virus, as they are more likely to have compromised respiratory and immune systems,” the report states. “This brief provides additional confirmation of what has long been known: the most vulnerable communities are being hit hardest by the pandemic, even in the reopened economy.”

Ty Cobb, the HRC Foundation’s senior director of Strategic Initiative and Research, who worked on the report, said the report’s data was obtained from a sample of 12,000 people who participated in a nationwide survey.

Although the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index report says a record 765 hospitals and other health care facilities participated in the 2020 survey asking about LGBTQ policies, several prominent hospitals in D.C., Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland did not return the 60-question survey sent to at least 1,200 hospitals across the country.

The report doesn’t give a reason for why hospitals chose not to participate in the survey, but it points out those that did not participate did not receive a numerical score assessing their LGBTQ policies.

Among the D.C.-area hospitals that did not return the survey questionnaire were D.C.’s George Washington University Hospital, Howard University Hospital, and Sibley Memorial Hospital. The LGBTQ healthcare center Whitman-Walker Health was the only hospital or health facility in D.C. to receive a perfect 100 percent rating in the HEI report.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center received a 90 percent score; the Veterans Administration Washington D.C. Medical Center received a score of 90; and Children’s National Medical Center received a score of 75.

In Northern Virginia, the Inova Alexandria Hospital, the Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax County, the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, and the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital received no rating score in the Healthcare Equality Index report because they didn’t return the survey questionnaire, according to HRC Foundation Health and Aging Program Director Tari Hanneman.

However, many other hospitals in other parts of Virginia, including the 11 Sentara hospital group hospitals, received perfect 100 percent scores, the report shows. Sentara hospitals are located in the cities of Norfolk, Charlottesville, Woodbridge, Virginia Beach, and Harrisonburg among other cities.

In suburban Maryland across the border from D.C., Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda was one of only two suburban Maryland hospitals to have participated in the survey. It received a score of 65.

The University of Maryland’s University Health Center in College Park received a score of 100. But eight of the University of Maryland’s other hospitals throughout the state, including the ones in Laurel and Cheverly in the D.C. area and one in Baltimore, did not return the survey questionnaire and were not given a rating.

Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and Suburban Hospital in Bethesda also did not return the survey questionnaire and were not given a rating score. The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore was among those that didn’t participate in the survey and went unrated.

The Chase Brexton Health Services center in Baltimore and the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis are among the Maryland health facilities that received a score of 100.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reason we don’t have a ton of participation from the DMV area,” Hanneman told the Washington Blade. “I would love to increase that,” she said.

In Delaware, Beebe Healthcare, a hospital in the city of Lewes that serves the Rehoboth Beach area, was one of five Delaware hospitals to receive a score of 100 in the 2020 Healthcare Equality Index report.

The report includes these findings pertaining to the 765 hospitals and health facilities that participated in the survey:
• 99 percent documented that they include both sexual orientation and gender identity in their patient non-discrimination policy.
• 99 percent documented that they include both sexual orientation and gender identity in their employment nondiscrimination policy.
• 92 percent documented that they provide staff training in LGBTQ patient-centered care.
• 53 percent indicated they have a policy or policies that specifically outline procedures and practices aimed at eliminating bias and insensitivity and ensuring “appropriate, welcoming interactions with transgender patients.”

The report says the HRC Foundation “proactively researched” the LGBTQ-related policies of more than 1,000 hospitals and health facilities across the country that did not participate in the 2020 survey. It says it found that the nonparticipating facilities had significantly fewer LGBTQ supportive policies compared to the hospital and health care facilities that participated in the survey.

“Among the researched hospitals in which we were able to find or obtain enumerated patient non-discrimination policies, only 67 percent have policies that include both ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ and only 63 percent were found to have an LGBTQ-inclusive employment non-discrimination policy,” a statement accompanying the report says. “The equal visitation policy, at 93 percent, is the only one that comes close to matching the rate of the participating facilities,” it says.

By “equal visitation,” the statement was referring to a hospital policy that allows same-sex partners to have the same visitation privileges as legal family members to visit someone in the hospital.

The two HRC Foundation reports can be accessed here:
hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/COVID-19-EconImpact-Reopening-083120b.pdf

hrc.org/resources/healthcare-equality-index

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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