Miami Hospital changes partner visitation rules

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Jackson Memorial Hospital is making changes to their visitation policies for LGBT families.

The Committee for Fair Visitation, a coalition of state, local and national organizations, began meeting with JMH and its parent company, Jackson Health Systems, just over a year ago. The talks were sparked by charges that the hospital would not let Janice Langbehn visit her partner of 18 years, Mary Pond. Pond slipped into a coma and died during the eight hours JMH staff would not permit visitation by her partner and three children. A lawsuit accusing the hospital of discrimination was thrown out by a judge who said the hospital made bad choices but did not break any laws.

Now, JMH is implementing a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It’s new patients’ bill of rights demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to providing quality care for LGBT patients, and a visitation policy  updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient.

Equality Florida helped build the Committee for Fair Visitation and in a statement, said JMH senior officials “made a sincere commitment to a thorough review of Jackson’s policies to ensure LGBT families would be treated with respect and support.”

“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,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director for Equality Florida.

Equality Florida plans to use JMH’s policies at a template for hospitals across the state.

JMH also participated in the 2009 Healthcare Equality Index survey project, a joint project of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which rates healthcare facilities on their policies and practices related to the LGBT community. Survey information will be released in May.

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