Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Update on hospital visitation case: Toward a successful resolution

Out & About Newspaper reported today that Val Burke had been denied the ability to visit her partner at Rolling Hills Hospital in Franklin. 

TEP learned about the case last night from Out & About when they were seeking comment.  So we immediately went to work.  At about 9:00 p.m. on Sunday I contacted Rolling Hills and spoke with a receptionist.  I explained the situation and asked her whether they participate in Medicare/Medicaid.  They do, which is no surprise.  But it's a critical point because, based on recent federal Health and Human Services regulations, all facilities that participate in Medicare/Medicaid must grant equal visitation, meaning a patient has the right to choose who visits him or her. 

The receptionist transferred me to the voice mail of one of the administrators and I explained the incident I was aware of, cited the regulation, and made it clear that if the incident had occurred that they "can't do that." 

Today I got a call from another administrator who said that she had held a meeting with their leadership team and explained the regulation.  She indicated that things would change.

So far so good.  I had an email exchange with Val today and she reported that the hospital had contacted her about arranging visitation.

The regulation is still relatively new, so it's likely that these kinds of incidents will unfortunately continue to occur.  It's incredibly frightening and enraging to experience something like Val went through.  Fortunately, once the regulation is pointed out, I would expect most health facilities to comply.  It is clear that we all need to do more to educate the health care industry about this important policy change.

In the mean time, we're all relieved for Val and her partner.  I'm personally grateful for administrators who "get it" the minute something like this is brought to their attention.

-Chris Sanders

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