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During a recent panel discussion featuring speakers from various borough and city-wide organizations, Staten Island University Hospital came out in support of the Island’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, announcing plans to create a safe and healing environment for its LGBT patients and visitors. The event took place June 28 at the Regina M. McGinn, MD, Education Center in Ocean Breeze.
“It’s great to see community institutions outreach to the LGBT community, and SIUH is doing it way ahead of schedule,” said Wayne Steinman of Midland Beach, a long-time LGBT advocate on the Island.
The hospital is the first within the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System to reach out and partner with the LGBT community, a group that may not seek medical attention for fear their sexual orientation will lead to sub-par treatment.
“Many don’t want to tell their healthcare providers they are gay because they don’t want to be treated different or feel judged,” said Joanne Waglione, borough coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG).
RESPECT AND EMPATHY
Celina Ramsey, who is leading the SIUH initiative, observes that LGBT patients have been heading to Manhattan for care, instead of staying on the Island. The hospital’s new program will train staff how to speak to and treat patients of different sexual orientations so they won’t feel the need to cross a bridge for medical attention.
Panel member Allison Berwald, a social worker and mental health counselor at the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBT youth in Manhattan, said that working with patients should include respect, empathy — not sympathy — and open-mindedness.
One goal of the SIUH initiative, according to Ms. Ramsey, is to ensure hospital staff know the appropriate terminology to use when working with LGBT patients to avoid making offensive or uncomfortable remarks.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Higgins
A recent panel discussion at Staten Island University Hospital unveiled the hospital's plans to work closely with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community to make the facility a safer place for everyone. Speaking were, from left: Aiden Harrington, Wayne Steinman, Dr. Amanda Smith, Joanne Waglione and Allison Berwald.
Aiden Michael Harrington, founder of the New York-based non-profit Judgment Free Health Care Providers Directory, pointed out that not everyone’s documentation, i.e. driver’s license, necessarily matches their gender identity, as is often the case for transgender individuals.
“Ask me what my preferred pronoun is; he or she,” said the panel member, who also is a registered nurse.
Dr. Amanda Smith, another panelist and physician in the SIUH Emergency Department, noted the changes also are about improving the hospital’s image within the LGBT community. This includes showing respect for people of all orientations by displaying items like an LGBT flag on hospital grounds.
At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Ms. Ramsey sought members of the audience’s input and asked both those who are and are not in the LGBT community about their experiences in a hospital setting. Some in attendance proposed the idea of redesigning medical forms to accommodate those of differing sexual orientations.
“We want the community to reach out, give us ideas how to make SIUH more LGBT-friendly,” said Ms. Ramsey, the hospital’s Language, Health Literacy and Diversity Coordinator.
She noted that some initiatives, such as new medical forms and policy changes, already are being implemented. Ms. Ramsey said she plans on working from the “outside in” — with feedback from the LGBT community — to develop services, as opposed to other groups that start from within and then work their way out to the community.
Meetings to change hospital-wide policy in relation to the LGBT community will continue until the initiative is “ingrained in the hospital’s make-up” she said.
“Our main goal is to make it a friendly and safe environment, regardless of who you are,” Ms. Ramsey said. “I hope that patients choose our facility because they feel comfortable and respected when they come here regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Danielle D’Elia is a reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.