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Bay Pines VA Center recognized for work with LGBTQ community

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A leading global human rights organization is honoring Bay Pines VA Healthcare System as a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” among nearly 600 hospitals participating in a national survey.

A representative for the facility, officially known as the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, announced the award Wednesday.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization, based their findings in the 10th edition of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), reflecting on a decade of progress in LGBTQ health care.

“Our designation as a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality for the fifth year in a row is a true reflection of our commitment to providing all Veterans with high-quality, equitable health care services,” Jason Dangel, public affairs officer at the facility, told Tuesday. “More simply, all veterans can expect to receive the same level of care regardless of sexual orientation, preference and gender identity.  This approach to care is reflected in our local policies and through the work accomplished by our dedicated health care professionals every day.”

A record 590 health care facilities actively participated in the HEI 2017 survey. Of those facilities, about 45 were VA medical centers. In addition to active survey participants, the HRC Foundation proactively researched key policies at more than 900 nonparticipating hospitals. For those included in the HEI, 302 earned a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” designation.

“We are extremely proud of being recognized as a national leader in health care equality by the HRC for the fifth year in a row,” Suzanne M. Klinker, director of Bay Pines VAHCS, said in a statement. “The designation received from the HRC demonstrates our commitment to equitable, inclusive care for all Veterans and aligns with our strategic goal of becoming a 5-star organization in health care quality and customer service..”

Other VA facilities recognized by HRC in Florida include the Miami VA Healthcare SystemOrlando VA Medical Center, and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital located in Tampa.

The 10th edition of the HEI implements new criteria that raise the bar on what it takes to earn HRC’s “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” designation. For the first time ever, HEI participants are given scores in four criteria that represent how many policies and best practices from each section they have implemented: foundational elements of LGBTQ patient-centered care, LGBTQ Patient Services and Support, Employee Benefits and Policies, and LGBTQ Patient and Community Engagement. Participants that receive the maximum score in each section for a total score of 100 points earn the coveted status of “2017 Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality.”

In the 2017 report, an impressive 302 facilities — 51 percent of those actively participating in the survey — met the more challenging criteria to earn this designation. Another 145 facilities received the “Top Performer” designation for scoring from 80 to 95 points. With 76 percent of actively participating facilities scoring 80 points or more, it is clear that health care facilities are going beyond the basics in adopting policies and practices in LGBTQ care.

Of the hospitals who did not participate in the HEI but were scored based on research, only 61 percent have policies that include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” and only 52 percent were found to have an LGBTQ-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy. The equal visitation policy, at 95 percent, is the only one that comes close to matching the rate of the participating facilities.

“The 2017 HEI reminds us again that though we have made tremendous gains over the past decade, there is still much more work left for us to do. With some of our biggest battles still ahead of us, it is crucial that institutions continue to demonstrate that the march toward full equality is not slowing down,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The 590 participants in this year’s HEI continue this march in partnership with the LGBTQ community. For the past decade, the HEI has been the road map to closing the gap in ensuring equal care to LGBTQ patients and their families, and we urge every health care facility to join us in this continuing effort to provide inclusive care to all.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2016, or to download a free copy of the report, visit

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.

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