A hospital has been forced to apologize for what it is calling a communication failure after a woman alleged staff denied the right to see her same-sex partner.
Linda Cole, of Tahoma Park, Maryland, filed a complaint with the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying that staff at the front desk of Washington Adventists Hospital denied her the right to see her same-sex partner who was in the emergency room after having suffered a seizure.
The Maryland incident took place Nov. 13. Kathryn Wilderotter, 37, said she had an epileptic seizure, crashed her car and was taken to the hospital in Takoma Park, which considers itself to be among the country’s most progressive communities.
Wilderotter’s legal spouse and partner of 11 years, Linda Cole, arrived at the hospital and identified herself as Wilderotter’s partner but wasn’t recognized as family.
“Nobody would let her back,” Wilderotter said.
Cole wasn’t allowed to visit until Wilderotter’s sister arrived, Wilderotter said.
The hospital issued a statement Thursday apologizing for a lack of communication during the incident, saying, “We are deeply sorry for Ms. Cole feeling anything less than valued at Washington Adventist Hospital,” and that the hospital would review its patient rights training to make sure “it adequately addresses this issue.” However, while blaming one new staff member for this so-called communication error, the hospital’s president has also reportedly said that she believes staff did nothing wrong.
But, Joyce Newmyer, the hospital president of Washington Adventist tells Nine News they didn’t do anything wrong.
“The care team is assessing and treating the patient and they need space and the time to do that before anyone accompanying the patient is allowed back in the emergency department. That we did not communicate that well, I’m very sorry for,” says Newmyer.
Newmeyer has gone on to tell NBC the same, saying that the hospital, “as a matter of both policy and practice,” treats people who walk through its doors the same “regardless of their faith, tradition, their ethnicity, or their sexual orientation.”
There seems two different versions of events here, with Cole and her partner alleging a prolonged period of separation that only ended once her partner’s sister arrived, and the hospital president saying that the duration was simply until “assessing and treating” the patient in the emergency department was complete.
Until a thorough investigation has been carried out it would be improper to speculate as to which version is more accurate, however this is one in a long line of incidents from across the country.
One case from late last year saw the chief executive officer of Rolling Hills Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, forced to apologize after a “human error” led to a woman being denied visitation rights to see her same-sex partner.
In fact, incidents like these prompted the Obama administration to issue guidelines last year on federal anti-discrimination rules, making it explicit that for hospitals running Medicare and Medicaid it is a violation to deny access to a same-sex spouse or partner, and that such a denial of rights can cost the hospital its federal funding.
Have concerns about which hospitals have a good record on treating same-sex partners fairly? Every year the HRC compiles the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey of healthcare policies and practices of interest to LGBT patients and their families. While the HEI is not a perfect guide — few are — it can help LGBT patients find quality healthcare with the peace of mind that they will not have to also face the added burden of prejudice and discrimination. Read more about the Healthcare Equality Index here.