Florida Medical Center has earned a perfect score for LGBT-friendliness from the Human Rights Campaign. Meanwhile, Boca Raton Regional Hospital got a low score for the fourth time in a row from the HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index.
HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index rates hospitals on how well they treat LGBT patients, workers and visitors. A hospital can score highly based on several criteria. For instance, its policies must explicitly state it does not discriminate against employees or patients based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It must allow a patient’s same-sex partner to visit them. It must give nurses and doctors training on how to care for LGBT patients. Its health benefits plan must cover gay and lesbian spouses and partners. Hospitals volunteer to share their policies with HRC, so not every hospital is rated by the LGBT rights group.
Florida Medical, at 5000 West Oakland Boulevard in suburban Fort Lauderdale, got top marks in all these categories. It was a big jump from last year, when HRC noted it could not find information on the hospital’s policies on visitation rights, non-discrimination, or health benefits for LGBT workers’ partners.
“Our CEO [Trey Abshier] decided it was something we should look at,” said Doctor Frank Vittimberga, Florida Medical’s Chief Medical Officer, “And then I took up the charge and made sure that everything that needed to get done was taken care of.”
“We needed to update patients’ rights policies,” said Vittimberga, who lives in Wilton Manors, “Patient rights policies didn’t really appreciate some of the gender identity issues -- fully stating there would be no discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Then there was staff training.
“The biggest thing is the education,” Vittimberga said. That meant things like training staff to call a patient by his or her preferred pronoun and making sure health records gave patients this option. “We had to change signage for our hospitals, making sure we had all-gender restrooms available for staff and patients and visitors,” he said.
Florida Medical’s employee benefits program already covered workers’ same-sex partners, but the hospital did not share that information publicly. Its insurance plan also covers employees’ sex change surgeries and hormone therapy. This year the hospital made this information public, boosting its score with HRC. For its efforts, HRC awarded the hospital with the title of Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality. Of the 590 hospitals HRC surveyed, 303 earned this title.
Boca Regional, located at 800 Meadows Road, was on the opposite end of the spectrum. It scored 25 out of a possible 100.
While Boca Regional allows for equal visitation and explicitly states it does not discriminate against patients based on sexual orientation, it failed to meet HRC’s other criteria. HRC found nothing in Boca Regional’s policies covering discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. Nor did the hospital train its staff on working with LGBT patients. Nor does it have policies for checking if there is a difference between its care of straight and LGBT patients.
HRC did give Boca Regional partial credit for its employee benefits program. SFGN asked HRC and Boca Regional for copies of the programs, but both declined to share. HRC only shares such information about a hospital with its permission, said spokeswoman Sarah McBride.
Boca Regional has consistently earned low marks from HRC since it was first rated in 2013.
“The fact that we opted to participate in the most current Index survey as well as past initiatives is indicative of our commitment to these matters and it gives us material feedback relative to our strengths and weaknesses in the Index’s categories,” spokesman Thomas Chakurda wrote in a statement. “We can assure you we are acting in a responsible manner. We will certainly learn from this year’s results and look forward to improving our scores in the future.”
When pressed on how Boca Regional would update its policies for a higher score, Chakurda declined to elaborate.
Here are how other South Florida hospitals fared on HRC’s 2017 report.
University of Miami Hospital - 100
Veterans Affairs Miami Healthcare System - 100
Jackson Memorial - 85
Cleveland Clinic Florida, Weston - 100
Westside Regional Medical Center, Plantation - 40
Palm Beach County
Veterans Affairs West Palm Beach Medical Center - 100