Hospital roomThe cover story of the current issue of Equality magazine (Winter 2007) published by the Human Rights Campaign is titled “Are Hospitals Good for Your Health? New HRC Effort Looks at How Hospitals Treat GLBT Patients”.

Together with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the Human Rights Campaign has launched the Healthcare Equality Index, which measures and rates hospitals on their gay friendly policies.

Questions include “Does your hospital have a written visitation policy that allows GLBT domestic partners the same access as spouses and next-of-kin?” and “Does your hospital recognize advance healthcare directives … in allowing GLBT domestic partners decision-making authority for their hospitalized partners?”

I have to tell you, this is important to me for more than abstract political and civil rights reasons. Over the Christmas break, I picked up some sort of nasty stomach flu or virus, and after a few days of struggling with it I really fell ill. Apparently in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom and fell unconscious on the bathroom floor.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before Rob found me, bundled me up, and drove me to our nearest emergency room. By the time we got there I was feeling *really* crappy but fully conscious, so I could give the information to check myself in while Rob just sat down to wait.

We didn’t have the “Hi, we’re gay!” t-shirts on, so I don’t know if the hospital staff recognized that we were partners or not. But only about 5 minutes passed after I was taken in to a room for blood pressure measurements and all that, when a nurse came by and said “Would you like your friend to come in here with you?” And of course I said yes.

It was traumatic enough to be so ill, lying in a sterile hospital room, and strapped into an IV. But if I had been forced to spend those hours alone, it would have been much worse. I’m grateful to my hospital for being thoughtful enough to allow me to have company, whether they realized my ‘friend’ was my partner or not.

But grateful as I am, I don’t want it to be a matter of indulgence or a random act of kindness that my partner could be with me. I want every one of us, every time we get care, to know (not hope) that our family can and will be with us.

So I salute HRC for taking on this important and very practical issue. As HRC President Joe Solmonese says in the article, “We’ve seen, through our Corporate Equality Index, that these tools can dramatically move industries toward a greater understanding and support of policies, standards and training that ensure equal treatment.”

Hear hear! I’m looking forward to the first Healthcare Equality Index results, to be published later this year.