In a move that sets a new standard for Florida hospitals, Jackson Memorial Hospital has adopted a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that respects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. Equality Florida applauds Jackson's new policies and we're working hard to ensure that hospitals across the state meet or exceed this new standard.
Left to right: Holiday Simmons, Lambda Legal; Dr. Eneid Roldan, CEO of Jackson Health Systems; Jason Schneider GLMA, Julia Dawson; Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida; Ric Cuming, Chief Admin Officer at Jackson
Last year Equality Florida helped form the Committee for Fair Visitation, a coalition of more than a dozen local, state and national organizations working to ensure our families are respected and protected at the most vulnerable times in our lives. Our committee formed in the wake of charges that Jackson had refused, for eight hours, to provide Janice Langbehn access to her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond. Lisa slipped into a coma and died. Last September, the court rejected a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal on Janice's behalf ruling that no law required the hospital to allow her and their three children to see Lisa.
The Committee for Fair Visitation continued a dialogue with the hospital for over a year. It was clear from the start that senior officials, including Jackson's CEO, Dr. Eneida Roldan, were sincere in their commitment to a thorough review of Jackson's policies and to ensuring that those policies treated LGBT families with respect and support. Staff and administrative leaders have worked closely with the LGBT community to upgrade hospital policies and training procedures with the goal of making Jackson a model for how hospitals should treat gay and transgender families and patients.
The important improvements at Jackson include:
- a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression;
- a patient's bill of rights that demonstrates the hospital's commitment to providing quality care for LGBT patients;
- and a visitation policy that updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient.
Equality Florida sends our heartfelt thanks to Janice Langbehn and her children for their tremendous courage in sharing their story. Their willingness to speak up sparked the conversations that have changed the policies at Jackson Memorial. When we spoke to Janice earlier she said she was glad some good had come from tragedy.
"It gives me and my family some comfort to know that by sharing our story we have helped to change Jackson's polices for the better," Janice said today.
These are crucial changes. What Janice Langbehn experienced represents the greatest fears of gay couples. No one should ever enter a hospital worrying that they will be barred from their loved one's bedside because the person behind the desk refuses to recognize your family, and with these new policies, Jackson has set a very high standard for valuing all families including LGBT families. We hope other hospitals across Florida and our state legislature will move quickly to join Jackson in creating these vital protections.
Equality Florida would like to extend our deep appreciation to all who participate in the Committee for Fair Visitation and especially Lambda Legal and the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) for their strong leadership through this highly productive process.
Members of the Committee for Fair Visitation include: Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth, CenterLink, Comprehensive Money Management Services, LLC, Equality Florida, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Lambda Legal, Miami Workers' Center, Out with Cancer, Pride Center at Equality Park, SAVE Dade, and Transgender Equality Rights Initiative.