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MGH participates in first-of-its-kind Healthcare Equality Index
National report rates hospitals on health care and non-discrimination policies for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans

BOSTON - May 13, 2008 - Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is proud to announce that it was one of 88 hospitals nationwide, and the only in Massachusetts, to participate in an industry-changing nationwide report about patient care for GLBT Americans - the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). The report was compiled by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights organization, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. This report rates for the first time the nation's hospitals on a set of baseline standards of patient care and health care employee rights for GLBT Americans.

The HEI is the first step toward establishing a nationwide set of standards to reduce discrimination and ensure quality hospital-based health care. The MGH met all 10 criteria set forth by the survey, except in instances that do not apply due to the state's same-sex marriage equality laws. Questions in the survey touched on patient non-discrimination policies, hospital visitation policies, decision-making policies for patients' family members, cultural competence and diversity policies and services for health care employees, and health care employee services and benefits.

"The MGH is deeply committed to providing equitable, compassionate and high quality care to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families, a level of care that is standard across our diverse patient population," says Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of the Massachusetts General Hospital. "In the Healthcare Equality Index report, we are proud to be able to highlight our commitment to these high standards of care, as well as our efforts to promote a supportive work environment for all our employees."

Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, from the Department of Anesthesia and co-coordinator of MGH's LGBT, Friends and Allies, says, "As a physician who takes care of LGBT patients, I know that places like the Massachusetts General Hospital which are supportive and welcoming of LGBT patients, allow me to provide the highest quality of care to the LGBT community."

"Additionally, the survey provided members of the LGBT community the opportunity to see they are not alone; and for hospital leadership to demonstrate their support of programs and activities of interest to the community and its friends and allies, at all levels and in all roles throughout the organization." adds Jackie Slivko, Operations and Process Improvement, Pathology Service and co-coordinator of MGH's LGBT, Friends and Allies.

But in many places, the absence of federal protections, inadequate state laws and inconsistent hospital policies often results in discrimination and inadequate health care for GLBT patients and their families. Too many times, a gay man has been unable to comfort his partner, a transgender person has been ridiculed instead of treated, or a lesbian mom has been barred from seeing her child at the hospital. The HEI is calling attention to discriminatory practices and, over time, establishing a "gold standard" of policies to ensure equality of treatment.

"By publishing the Healthcare Equality Index, we not only shine a light on the top performing hospitals, but also draw attention to prejudices that GLBT Americans must face during some of their most critical moments," said Human Rights Campaign Foundation President Joe Solmonese. "With each subsequent edition of the HEI, we will move the health care industry closer to gold standard of national policies that will improve the treatment and prevent discrimination of GLBT Americans and their families."

"The strong participation we're seeing by hospitals across the country reflects a trend within the health care industry of focusing on GLBT patients as a specific patient population with some unique needs," said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. "We're encouraged by this because this kind of private, voluntary action is one of the most important ways we're going to be able to reduce some of the health disparities that GLBT people currently experience."

Through the HEI, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation surveyed 88 hospitals across the country and rated them on five areas of policy and practice: patient non-discrimination, hospital visitation, decision making, cultural competency training and employment non-discrimination. With non-existent or incomplete state health laws and differing hospital policies that can lead to discrimination and inadequate health care for GLBT patients and their families, the HEI creates a baseline understanding of existing hospital policies, measures improvement from year to year, and establishes a gold standard for culturally competent care of GLBT Americans.

The 2008 Healthcare Equality Index is available online in PDF format: www.hrc.org/hei. The design and implementation of the report, to be released each spring, is conducted by the HEI Advisory Council, whose members include representatives from the health care industry and organizations serving the GLBT community. The HEI will continue to expand its work on hospital policies to also include long-term care, assisted living, hospice, community health clinics and other branches of the healthcare industry in future editions.

Founded in 1811, the MGH is the third oldest general hospital in the United States and the oldest and largest in New England. The 900-bed medical center offers sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic care in virtually every specialty and subspecialty of medicine and surgery. Each year the MGH admits more than 46,000 inpatients and handles nearly 1.5 million outpatient visits at its main campus and health centers. Its Emergency Department records nearly 80,000 visits annually. The surgical staff performs more than 35,000 operations and the MGH Vincent Obstetrics Service delivers more than 3,500 babies each year.

The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the country, with an annual research budget of more than $500 million. It is the oldest and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, where nearly all MGH staff physicians serve on the faculty. The MGH was the first in the state to achieve Magnet status for nursing, and it is consistently ranked among the nation's top hospitals by US News and World Report.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has been working since 1981 to ensure equality in healthcare for GLBT patients and healthcare providers, through advocacy, education, research and patient referrals.

Media Contacts: Emily Parker, MGH Public Affairs
Brad Luna, Human Rights Campaign, (202) 216-1514

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