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Baystate garners award for LGBT equality policies

SPRINGFIELD A new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation awarded Baystate Medical Center (BM) a perfect rating for the hospital's inclusive policies and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Baystate, a 'top performer' in the organization's Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), is one of just two individual hospitals in New England and eight in the country singled out for the honor. "This honor represents how far we've come in our efforts to become an inclusive organization, one that serves all the members of our community," Visael "Bobby" Rodriguez, chief diversity officer of Baystate Health, said. The report follows President Obama's memorandum in April directing Health and Human Services to make rules that require all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding nearly every hospital in America to protect the visitation and healthcare decision-making rights of LGBT people. It also comes as the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies healthcare facilities, has announced new, fully inclusive patient non-discrimination standards as part of their accreditation process. At the time of President Obama's memorandum, BMC already provided full visitation and healthcare decision-making rights to LGBT people. "We're proud of our leadership in recognizing the rights of every individual to receive the full support of loved ones during his or her hospital stay," Rodriguez said. "Nothing less is acceptable." Most other hospitals in the U.S. are still lagging behind, the report found. The HEI independently reviewed a representative sample of 200 of the largest healthcare facilities nationwide. The report found that in all 50 states and even in historically LGBT-friendly cities like San Francisco and New York there are facilities that do not fully protect LGBT people from healthcare discrimination. Ninety-three percent of healthcare facilities included in the study do not have fully inclusive policies toward LGBT people, and 42 percent don't include "sexual orientation" in their Patients' Bill of Rights/non-discrimination policy. The HEI 2010 also includes data from 178 facilities across the country that voluntarily provided information on patient non-discrimination, visitation, cultural competency training, and employment non-discrimination. BMC was among eight hospitals, three clinics and one health system nationally to receive perfect ratings for LGBT-inclusive policies and care. "Healthcare that is free of prejudice is a fundamental human value, and a fundamental American value," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, said. "We thank all healthcare facilities that voluntarily participated in this year's HEI for showing an implicit commitment to the rights of LGBT patients and their families. While many LGBT people may indeed have a positive experience in these hospitals, we believe that the standard for equality must be policies that are put in writing and carried out in practice. We urge all healthcare facilities to move toward greater inclusiveness, because sooner rather than later, that's where America is headed." The HEI honor represents only part of Baystate's efforts to improve cultural competency throughout the organization, Rodriguez said. The health provider is currently engaging its workforce in intensive cultural competency training. To better engage and connect with patients, BMC is also offering language classes to an increasing number of nurses and other providers to complement its extensive array of translation services available around the clock. The HEI 2010 is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Pond and the advocacy of her partner Janice Langbehn. In 2007, when Pond was rushed to a Florida hospital emergency room with a brain aneurysm, Langbehn and their children were kept from Pond as her life slipped away. Thanks to the tireless work of Langbehn and other advocates for health equality, this year that hospital updated its policies to protect the rights of LGBT patients and their families. BMC has won six Beacon Awards for Critical Care Excellence, is designated a Magnet Hospital for nursing excellence, and operates Massachusetts' second-busiest emergency room, serving the most seriously ill and injured patients from across western Massachusetts and critical trauma patients from across the Northeast. Baystate is one of Leapfrog Group's top 45 hospitals in the U.S. for quality and efficiency, a Thomson Reuters Top 100 Cardiovascular Hospital, and a U.S. News Best Hospital for endocrine and diabetes care. For more info, visit baystatehealth.org/bmc.

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