Following Care2′s exclusive report on the anti-gay treatment 20-year-old Paul Zilber says he and his partner faced at the hands of Saint Barnabas Behavioral Health Center staff, the facility has since contacted Mr Zilber to offer what appears to be an apology.
In an email seen by Care2 that was sent to Mr Zilber dated August 1 and credited to Joe Hicks, President and Chief Executive Officer at Saint Barnabas Behavioral Health Center, Hicks apologizes if the center did not meet its “high standard” of care, saying, “We take seriously the respect and treatment of any person who enters a Barnabas Health facility.”
In the email Hicks, without mentioning anything specific about Mr Zilber’s case, goes on to assure that, “Barnabas Health policies are fully compliant with federal and state non-discrimination laws” and reveals the incident that led Mr Zilber being barred from seeing his same-sex partner “is being reviewed.”
The email goes on to state:
“It is the policy of Barnabas Health that all of our facilities are strongly committed to treating all patients regardless of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, financial status or disability. Moreover, the satisfaction of all of our patients and their families is one of our most important core values.
“We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention. We have reviewed our policies and practices and reminded staff of their responsibility to apply it both in letter and in spirit.”
The email continues by highlighting that Barnabas was part of the first healthcare organization in New Jersey to offer healthcare benefits to domestic partners of employees, and goes on to say that it strives “to fulfill our mission of providing the highest quality healthcare services available to all members of our communities,” before thanking Mr Zilber for his feedback.
Earlier in the week Mr Zilber told Care2 how, when he went to kiss his fiance goodbye after visiting him in the facility alongside his partner’s grandparents, Barnabas nurses cornered him and told him that this behavior was inappropriate, and when he tried to argue that this seemed discriminatory, they struck him off the list of his partner’s allowed visitors, only allowing him back some days later.
In response to the email from Barnabas, Mr Zilber told Care2 he didn’t feel like this was much of an apology at all.
“At first, I felt a little relieved having some response from the higher-ups in the company,” he said. “However, after reading the apology, it seems as if it was robotic, and very generic. It didn’t offer any resolution, and it seemed to be a rather blank apology, if you would even call it that.”
Asked whether he felt this brought him closure, Mr Zilber said no, adding that he would continue with his fight until Barnabas publicly acknowledged what happened:
“I’m currently working with local equality organizations to bring some justice out of this, with hopes that Saint Barnabas will publicly come out with a heartfelt apology, as well as a solution, and possibly even reevaluate their policies and offer sensitivity training to their nurses.”
As of writing, the Care2 petition Mr Zilber started a little over a week ago has received over 23,000 signatures, far exceeding his original goal of 10,000.
When asked how he felt about all this, Mr Zilber said how grateful he is for the support he has received, saying:
“To every single person who signed this petition, I want to thank all of you for finding it in your hearts to help me fight the injustices that we both had to endure. We are both beyond grateful to have each and everyone of you helping us make sure this does not happen to anyone else in this facility. Again, from both of our families, we are extremely grateful for all of you.”
Care2 will continue to follow Paul Zilber’s case as it develops and will bring you further updates in the coming weeks.