Friday, August 16, 2013

Update on Research Medical Center’s Treatment of LGBT People

The following was written for the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ.

           This past May, CCCUCC members Paul Osgood and Larry Chester and I met with the CEOof Research Medical Center and other hospital administrators about the hospital’s treatment of LGBT people.  The meeting occurred after news broke of a gay couple (Paul Gorley and Alan Mansell) whoclaimed that Gorley was forcibly removed from Mansell’s bedside.  The event went viral as an example of discrimination against same-sex couples.  I had written to RMC executives expressing my concern about the event, and the CEO Kevin Hicks responded with an offer to meet with us.  The meeting was a good first step, but overall they were non-committal about our suggestions of how to reach out to the LGBT community.
            In the months since, as I have reflected on that meeting, I continue to be surprised at the hospital’s tone deafness towards the negative feelings LGBT people have towards it.  The folks from RMC we met with denied wrongdoing in the Gorley/Mansell affair and genuinely seemed shocked by how the story had spread so far and so fast.  When Paul and Larry shared about how they and their partners had experienced discrimination in the past and therefore that experience led them to immediately assume the worst about RMC, it seemed like new information to those present.  The meeting was cordial and those present really did listen to us, but there remained a disconnect between us in terms of understanding why LGBT people would react towards the hospital as they have.
            In our meeting, we advocated for RMC to adopt something called the Healthcare Equality Index which is operated by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.  The HEI is a certification process that focuses on 4 areas of a hospital: 1. non-discrimination policies towards LGBT patients, 2. non-discrimination policies towards LGBT employees, 3. visitation policies for LGBT patients and their partners, and 4. sensitivity training towards care of LGBT people.  We offered the possibility that Research Medical Center can go from being incredibly negative in the eyes of LGBT people to having the stamp of approval of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most visible organization promoting LGBT rights.  They agreed to look at the materials.  Since our meeting I’m glad to say that Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics has been certified by theHealthcare Equality Index and has committed to all four areas of care for LGBT people.
            After not hearing back from RMC, I wrote another letter to CEO Kevin Hicks to follow up.  I’m glad to say that I did get a return call from one of the hospital’s vice presidents to let me know the steps RMC has taken.  Here is a summary of her words to me.

1.     1.  Three members of the leadership team of HCA Midwest Health System (the parent company of RMC) have taken the 90-minute seminar on the Healthcare Equality Index offered by Human Rights Campaign.  However, it was determined that being fully certified by the HEI would be too expensive for the entire company. 
2.      2.  Since the overall corporation will not seek certification by the HEI (as did Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics), RMC has begun a focus group to look at the feasibility of its staff taking the 90-minute training offered by HEI on the care of LGBT people. 
3.      3.  RMC is also in the process of carrying out an internal review of its policies and practices regarding the treatment of LGBT People and how best to include LGBT people in the hospital’s code of conduct.
4.      RMC is talking about having explicit LGBT representation on its Board of Trustees.

Although I am disappointed that RMC’s parent company is unwilling to lead the way on improving care for LGBT people, I am pleased that our local hospital seems to be taking real steps towards improving how it cares for this important part of its community.  I take these steps to be very positive, although ultimately the proof will come in whether or not RMC administration creates an environment where all hospital staff are expected to care for the specific needs of LGBT people.
            I feel the steps RMC has taken thus far are directly related to our church’s willingness to speak out on behalf of LGBT people.  Granted, those steps are incomplete, but I feel we should celebrate progress even as we continue our advocacy for all people who are not given their proper due as children of God.  I urged the VP I spoke with to consider going public with these steps and to speak to the media about their efforts to improve care for LGBT people.  She said she would “take that suggestion back upstairs.”  We will wait and see if RMC can improve its image with as well as its care to LGBT people.
Grace and Peace,

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