Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hospital meeting results

So we went to the hospital today to meet with the CEO. Nice guy, quiet, unassuming accountant of a guy. He had been told of our situation by the other hospital CEO guy, so he was a little better prepared than that first guy was going in.

And like any good administrator, he defended his staff from a perceived attack. One of the points he raised struck me as quite valid, although its practical application during the incident in question was still skewed badly. Health care providers need to gather a "social history" of each patient to better inform the treating professional in his or her decision-making and diagnosis. For instance, I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. That is important information for my health care providers to have. If a person had a history as a sex worker, that would be valid information for doctors to know. If a person has no support system at home to help in dire circumstances, that is important for the providers to know as well.

{For those of you joining this story late in the game, the original post is HERE, followed by THIS, and THIS. The most recent post was this morning, and you can scroll down to see that - you don't need a damned link for it.}

The fact that N is a lesbian is technically irrelevant. The reasons given by her PA at the time to defend her disclosure of N's sexual orientation ("so he'd know you weren't pregnant and didn't have any STDs") is patently bogus. As I said before, lesbians get pregnant, and they get STDs. How on earth could this woman believe that stuff? I cannot fathom it. Anyway, N's orientation is irrelevant. What should have been said was "this patient is not pregnant, nor is she at risk for STDs." As far as a social history, these might have been more appropriate words: "she has a long-term partner at home who is able to care for her if she is physically unable to care for herself. That partner's name is XXX and is listed as her emergency contact person."

All of the pertinent information is transferred from one medical professional to the other without necessitating writing the word "gay" in large letters and then circling it at the top of the clipboard containing N's medical information. That was bad form all around. But this meeting was not about that institution. It was about the institution that oversees the PA who disclosed the information in the first place. Only we don't know specifically what was said by her to the ER doctor. Only that whatever it was, it was sufficient for him to write "gay" at the top of the page and circle it. Perhaps there is some kind of stomach ailment relating to being a lesbian of which I was previously unaware. I've looked it up, but never found anything. Huh.

So anyway, we met with this CEO guy. Nice enough guy. Turns out he really is an accountant. After a few minutes of conversation, and I was trying to impart upon this decent man just what kind of risk and isolation the glbt community faces here in Hancock County, Maine, I stepped boldly across one of those lines that can so often be a huge error and asked him "where do you worship?"

He was stunned. "What?" He just looked at me.
"Where do you worship?"
His eyes showed comprehension. "Bangor."
I nodded. "You drive to Bangor then?"
"This is about discrimination and vulnerability and feeling safe in our own communities." I said to him. "You get that, don't you?"
It was an invitation for affirmation, and he nodded.
"I get it."

Bangor is where the nearest synagogue is.

He knows what it is to be a misunderstood minority. He knows what it is to have people believe they know everything about you because they know one little thing about you. He knows what it is to be hated because you're just a little bit different. And I bet he knows what it is like to be vulnerable and to get kicked.

I have hope that this guy will do the right thing and offer (require) training to the staff under his supervision, and I would be delighted to participate in that effort in any way I can. But I also know that doctors like to listen to other doctors, and so a mutual friend (who has lots of expensive letters after his name) will probably be the one who is tapped for that duty. That's fine by me. This whole thing is not about me. It is about teaching our medical system and the people who work in it how to treat sexual minorities like humans. It is challenging work. It will require them (and perhaps us) to discuss very personal things very frankly and with candor. And again, we will have to educate our doctors. With any luck, it will not happen again for a while, and the frequency of these incidents will grow thinner and thinner until they disappear altogether.

Stay tuned for updates.

1 comment:

Phigmint said...

You rock, girl!! Way to help him see dawn's early light. pun intended. - Phigmint