SUMMIT, NJ — On Wednesday, March 31, Summit Overlook Hospital was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index as leaders in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender healthcare equality. This is the second year the medical center has been acknowledged for their achievements in promoting equality.
The Healthcare Equality Index is a national benchmarking tool that evaluates health care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equality and inclusion of their LGBT patients, visitors and employees.
It began with an emotional flag raising ceremony, as the Human Rights Campaign flag, a blue flag with a yellow equality symbol, was raised and president of Overlook Medical Center, Alan Lieber, took front and center. He gladly accepted the recognition for the equality set in place for people regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, of Union County, a prime sponsor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriages, also spoke. “Regardless of our background, sexual orientation, faith or religion, we are one country, and we are glad to see Atlantic Health Care is being recognized for making everyone feel welcome — for reaching out to everyone.”
Also speaking was Assemblyman Tim Eustace. He congratulated Atlantic Health on a “phenomenal job” and marveled at “how far we’ve come.” He said that he and his husband had to deal with the homophobia of an unsympathetic hospital system when an adopted son died of AIDS almost 30 years ago. “I’m looking at a hospital that has turned that around 360 degrees and come around to a healthcare system that is appropriate for everybody.”
Lieber explained that in order to achieve this recognition, the hospital “revised our policies to make them inclusive and have training programs” that instill “sensitivity to LGBT issues.”
The Healthcare Equality Index rated 2,061 of the nation’s health care facilities on their commitment to LGBT equality and inclusion based on four foundational elements of LGBT patient-centered care: an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy; an LGBT-inclusive visitation policy; an LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination policy; and staff training in LGBT patient-centered care. Of the health care facilities rated, 496 were designated a 2016 Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality.
“For LGBT patients, their families, employees, and their allies, a non-discriminatory environment is critical to promoting a healing culture or positive workplace,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center in a recent press release. “Research suggests that LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma and discrimination, which leads to delaying or avoiding medical care. Eliminating LGBT health disparities and enhancing efforts to improve health are necessary to ensure that LGBT individuals can lead long, healthy lives. This recognition is reassurance to LGBT patients, their families, and employees that time spent at any of our ‘Trusted Network of Caring’ facilities will be equitable and non-discriminatory.” This is just one of 10 other hospitals to be recognized in the state for this achievement.
“We also have a primary care practice dedicated to LGBT-only patients, in addition to physician practices which encourage the LGBT patient population to visit their offices,” says Janina Hecht, president of public relations at Overlook.