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posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
UW Medical Center gets top rating from HRC
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UW Medical Center gets top rating from HRC

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The University of Washington Medical Center is one of 14 hospitals getting top honors in the HRC's 2011 Healthcare Equality Index.

The 14 hospitals identified by the HRC are also among U.S. News and World Report's 'top hospitals.' Like the HRC, U.S. News issues a hospital rating every year.

The full list of HRC's top-rated hospitals can be found online at www.hrc.org/hei.

HRC's ratings are based on questionnaires completed by hospital administrators.

U.S. News and World Report ratings are based on data from nearly 5,000 hospitals in 16 adult specialties and 10 pediatric specialties, and are widely accepted as the official national healthcare ratings.

'This year's U.S. News and World Report's best hospital ratings demonstrate once again that providing quality healthcare goes hand-in-hand with healthcare free of prejudice and discrimination of any kind,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

'We congratulate these 14 top hospitals on this honor, and appreciate their dedication to healthcare equality for LGBT patients and families demonstrated by participating in the HEI.'

The Healthcare Equality Index is an annual survey administered by the HRC Foundation. The HEI 2011 reported on the voluntary participation of a record 87 survey respondents, representing 375 facilities nationwide.

According the report, hospitals participating in the HRC survey were evaluated on four criteria - patient non-discrimination policies, visitation policies, cultural competency training for staff, and employment non-discrimination policies.

Although HRC relies on voluntary disclosure from the hospitals, they maintain rigorous standards, Tom Sullivan, deputy director of the HRC Family Project, told SGN in an email.

'Documentation is required for credit on any HEI rated criteria,' Sullivan wrote. 'The policies are in writing. We follow up on any reported discrimination cases, but we emphasize training as a means to insure the values stated in the policy are put into practice.'

Sullivan also indicated that the HRC's definition of 'family' includes all the legal relationships same-sex couples and their children might find themselves in.

'Our definition of family for visitation purposes does cover all relationships (spouses, D.P., etc.) which we feel all hospitals should consider because people traveling might use hospitals away from home,' and therefore couples in legally recognized relationships might find that they need medical care in states that do not afford recognition to same-sex relationships, Sullivan wrote.

'Also, hospitals must honor the visitation wishes of patients, which is not strictly linked to state sanctioned relationship recognition. In cases where a patient can't communicate, we emphasize the importance of advance healthcare directives,' he added.

Sullivan did not comment directly on a case reported recently in SGN, where a Lesbian mother seeking E.R. treatment for her young daughter was confronted with questions she considered intrusive and inappropriate.

He did stress, however, that HRC recommends 'visitation policies [that] grant same-sex parents the same access as different-sex parents for visitation of their minor children.'

The HRC says it hopes its Healthcare Equality Index will help hospitals adapt to a more LGBT-inclusive environment.

'As facilities transition to more LGBT-friendly policies and procedures,' the HRC said in its announcement, 'the HEI can serve as an organizational assessment tool by assisting hospitals in modifying their policies, and can help hospitals comply with Joint Commission standards addressing non-discrimination, and new [Department of Health and Human Services] regulations on visitation.'

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