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Muncie Hospital Now Gets High Marks for LGBT Care

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MUNCIE, Ind.  – A Muncie hospital is getting high marks for its commitment to providing a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients nearly a year after a transgender patient complained of ridicule and being denied treatment in the emergency room.

IU Health Ball Memorial earned the notice from the Human Rights Campaign last week by meeting seven criteria that included writing explicitly inclusive visitation policies and offering equal employment opportunities and non-discriminatory policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“We are committed to providing high-quality care, free from any type of discrimination,” hospital President and CEO Michael Haley said in a statement issued last week.

Just a year ago, in July 2010, transsexual Erin Vaught complained she was referred to as a “he-she” and “it” by hospital staffers after she arrived at the emergency room coughing up blood. Complaints were filed days later by Indiana Equality and the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance.

The hospital apologized and reached out to Vaught and the two advocacy groups. Together they came up with a plan to improve services.

“We started the mandatory training in September,” hospital spokesman Will Henderson told The Star Press. That training is now required on a yearly basis by all employees.

Ball Memorial then revised its visitation policies to grant same-sex couples equal visitation access as other couples and next of kin, and granting same-sex parents equal visitation access for their minor children. Other policy changes on employment, employee benefits and patient non-discrimination soon followed.

The Healthcare Equality Index, released in June by the Human Rights Campaign, found that the vast majority of American health care facilities did not have LGBT-inclusive patient non-discrimination policies last year. It rated 87 respondents on policies related to LGBT patients and families.

Since then, the gay and lesbian civil rights organization reports, Ball Memorial has been among several respondents that “have updated their policies to protect patients from discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”

Henderson said the hospital will work to “constantly improve” its policies to make sure that “everyone feels they have a safe environment here.”

Vaught does not have a published telephone number in the Muncie area and could not be reached by The Associated Press for comment Sunday. The Star Press also was unable to reach Vaught for its story.

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