HCN News & Notes

Cooley Dickinson Hospital Named Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality

NORTHAMPTON — Cooley Dickinson Hospital was the only hospital in Western Mass. and one of only seven hospitals in Massachusetts to earn the “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” designation from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. This is the second consecutive year Cooley Dickinson has earned the designation.

“At Cooley Dickinson, we believe in embracing diversity, understanding difference, and striving for health equality for everyone, and especially in the care we provide to our patients and families,” said Cooley Dickinson Health Care President and CEO Joanne Marqusee.

She noted that hospital leaders cannot take for granted that because of where they live and work — in a community enriched by a relatively large percentage of LGBTQ individuals and families — that healthcare providers consistently offer knowledgeable, sensitive, and affirming healthcare, free from discrimination.

“While we know all our staff and providers are committed to competent and affirming care for the LGBTQ population, it is our responsibility to do all that we can to assure that they have the training and tools to deliver on that promise and that our facilities and materials also reflect this commitment to respectful, equitable, and inclusive care to everyone, every time,” she added.

The following are some examples of initiatives Cooley Dickinson has put in place or that are ongoing that demonstrate the organization’s commitment to equitable and inclusive care:

• Revised patient and staff non-discrimination policies and practices;

• Ongoing clinical and non-clinical education and training on LGBTQ health issues, challenges, disparities, and ways to overcome barriers to access and care for Human Resources staff and managers;

• Adoption of a policy piloted at Partners HealthCare that supports employees going through gender transition. Cooley Dickinson is currently working to implement the policy throughout the organization to help ensure a successful workplace transition;

• Conversion of public restrooms to single-stall, all-gender bathrooms at all Cooley Dickinson Medical Group facilities. Most public restrooms at Cooley Dickinson Hospital are also now single-stall, all-gender bathrooms; and

• Work with Cooley Dickinson Medical Group Women’s Health providers to create new intrauterine insemination (IUI) guidelines and protocols so more same-sex couples can pursue pregnancy.

Ongoing efforts also include:

• Ensuring equal visitation and medical decision making to same-sex/LGBTQ couples;

• Offering safe and confidential rooming assignments for transgender patients;

• Providing increased access through clinicians who have a specialty in LGBTQ care; and

• Providing community-based trainings at community-based organizations beyond Cooley Dickinson.

In an effort to identify and address the cultural needs of each patient, as well as monitor and analyze health disparities, Cooley Dickinson uses its new Epic electronic medical record system to safely and sensitively collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the process, Cooley Dickinson makes every effort to identify patients by their proper name and preferred pronoun in all settings.

Cooley Dickinson’s focus on improving LGBTQ care is part of its broader efforts related to diversity, inclusion, and health equity. As Marqusee noted, “though we have made notable gains over the past few years, there is still much more work to be done.”