USC Verdugo Hills Hospital recently was designated by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as a top hospital for LGBTQ+ patients and health-care workers, the only hospital in Glendale to receive the recognition.
The Human Rights Campaign, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, designated all of Keck Medicine’s hospitals as LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders after evaluating hospitals nationwide on their services and work environments to ensure that people who identify as LGBTQ+ feel included and are well cared for.
“It has always been the goal of our hospital to ensure the health and well-being of the whole community, including those who identify as LGBTQ+,” said USC-VHH CEO Keith Hobbs. “Receiving this designation by the Human Rights Campaign is an honor, but not the reason we strive to provide care. That said, we hope that this designation can reassure LGBTQ+ patients in the community that we are here for them, that they and their loved ones will be treated with the utmost respect and compassion, addressing any personalized needs that may arise.”
Considered to be the national LGBTQ benchmark tool for evaluating health-care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees, the HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index 2020 assessed more than 1,700 facilities nationwide. USC-VHH scored 100% on myriad inclusivity topics, including nondiscrimination and staff training in providing LGBTQ-inclusive patient-centered care, as well as patient and visitor nondiscrimination policies.
The hospital also scored 100% on completing “best practices” for patient services and support, which can include providing LGBTQ clinical services, hiring a patient advocate for transgender patients, collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data in health records, providing training on LGBTQ-inclusive medical decision-making options, and more.
USC-VHH Chief Nursing Officer Theresa Murphy, who lives in La Cañada Flintridge, said she is proud the hospital has received the recent designation, and emphasized that members of the LGBTQ community sometimes struggle to find care for their specific needs.
“I think it creates a degree of comfort and sense of safety among patients that their life experiences will be respected, and can help them get over some of the biases and even trauma that a person may have experienced previously in trying to find appropriate health care,” Murphy said. “There are a number of studies that indicate that people who identify as LGBTQ are underserved in health care, perhaps sometimes due to negative experiences they’ve had in their past.”
Part of the commitment to patients at USC-VHH, according to its website, is to ensure patients receive personalized, compassionate care without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and to recognize their partner, child or any individual as a visitor, regardless of legal recognition. When transgender patients present themselves for health care, they will be addressed and referred to on the basis of their self-identified gender, using their pronouns and name in use, regardless of the patient’s appearance, surgical history, legal name or sex assigned at birth.
“Our intent in reaching out to the LGBTQ community is to ensure that we provide quality care to all of our community members through inclusive policies and practices that create an environment of respect and safety. As a community hospital, we feel it’s an important aspect of our profile and commitment,” Murphy noted, adding that LGBTQ mental health is also a key component of the hospital’s annual suicide prevention seminar.
In addition to serving the patient community, USC-VHH has taken strides to create a more inclusive environment for employees at the hospital, Murphy added, expanding employee benefits to partners of same-sex marriages.
“Many of the standards were led by some of our front-line caregivers, staff who wanted to be involved. They worked to change policies, create inclusion and put together an education plan, part of which was to create awareness of how to take care of LGBTQ patients and their visitors who come to the hospital.”