Parkland adds trans protections

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell addresses the Parkland board about the changes Tuesday morning.

Parkland Hospital’s Board of Managers voted unanimously to add gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity and harassment policies Tuesday morning.

The vote by the full board came after the Human Resources Committee approved the wording at its Jan. 16 meeting. The wording provides protections for gender identity and expression, as well as genetic information for employees and patients.

In April, trans woman Paula Witherspoon was issued a ticket for using a women’s restroom while at the hospital with her husband who had suffered a heart attack.

Dr. Roberto De la Cruz, a gay board member, met with Witherspoon and hospital officials in May. He said he wanted a policy to protect trans patients but it would take time.

De la Cruz said that he was glad the policy changes passed to ensure that trans employees and patients will feel comfortable. After the ticket, Witherspoon would call him and he would have someone escort her to a restroom when she was visiting her husband. He said she called fairly often while her husband was being treated, adding that he hopes the changes will make her more comfortable when she returns.

“With this, I hope that she feels that she is welcome to use the facilities of the¬†hospital at¬†any level, as a companion to her partner or as a patient herself,” he said.

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell spoke after the vote in public remarks. He and the center had met with Parkland officials before the vote to encourage the approval of the changes.

Addressing the board, McDonnell thanked them for voting in favor of the changes, especially when a few decades ago the hospital was sued for its treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS. Parkland added sexual orientation protections a few years ago and began offering domestic partner benefits last year.

“That’s an amazing change in 25 years and each one of you deserves applause and praise for that,” McDonnell said.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Parkland adds DP benefits

Dr. Roberto de la Cruz

The domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees at Parkland hospital will soon have access to health benefits, after the facility’s Board of Managers voted Tuesday to approve a proposal first put forward four years ago.

The Board of Managers voted 6-0, with one member abstaining, to offer DP benefits to gays and lesbians who are among the Parkland Health & Hospital System’s 9,400 employees.

The addition of DP benefits, which takes effect Jan. 1, is expected to cost $696,635 in fiscal year 2012. But Dr. Lauren McDonald, who chairs the Board of Managers, said the benefits will make Parkland more competitive and improve its quality of care.

“I think if anything it eventually enriches us as opposed to costing us money,” said McDonald, adding that DP benefits have been “a long time coming.”

McDonald also chaired the Board of Managers in September 2007, when a proposal to add DP benefits was pulled from the board’s agenda at the last minute due to political pressure. Parkland is owned by Dallas County, and the Board of Managers is appointed by the Commissioners Court, which was then controlled by Republicans.

After Democrats took over control of the Commissioners Court at the start of this year, several new members were appointed to the seven-person Board of Managers.

They include Dr. Roberto de la Cruz, who is openly gay and made the motion to approve DP benefits on Tuesday.

“It’s a big day,” de la Cruz said after the vote, adding that he trained as an intern at Parkland in the 1990s. “It’s a personal day for me because I come from here.”

The Board of Managers member who abstained from Tuesday’s vote was Jerry Bryant. “I don’t want to discuss it,” Bryant said when asked the reason for his abstention.

—  John Wright