Two local hospital systems receive 100 percent ratings on Healthcare Equality Index, but HRC calls overall participation in Texas ‘disappointing’

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

Parkland Health and Hospital System and the VA North Texas Health Care System received perfect scores on this year’s Healthcare Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign and were recognized as leaders in LGBT healthcare equality.

HRC saw an increase in hospital participation for this year’s HEI, and Texas was no different. Nationwide, 718 hospitals participated, compared to 407 last year. In the past, only the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Legacy Community Health Services, both in Houston, have participated, but this year 38 facilities in Texas completed the survey.

Parkland’s 28 facilities and the Dallas VA were the only North Texas hospitals to take the survey, which analyzes inclusive polices, such as employment, patient and visitor nondiscrimination, and provides training to participants.

Shane Snowdon, director of HRC’s health and aging program, said the HEI has grown in popularity since its creation in 2007, adding that participation has increased dramatically over the last few years with awareness about LGBT health issues and many medical associations advocating for inclusive policies. However, she added that even though Texas saw an increase, the state should have more participants because it has more hospitals than any other state.

“If you take Parkland out, Texas is not a strong performer. We want that to change,” Snowdon said. “For that to be the Texas showing, it’s disappointing.”

The U.S. Veterans Health Administration encouraged the 152 VA medical centers across the country to participate, of which 120 did. In Texas, six of the seven VA healthcare systems participated and received perfect scores. Amarillo VA Health Care System was the only system to not participate. The VA Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston also participated.

Laura Kiewicz, manager of the LGBT Program at the Dallas VA, said she was proud of the high marks on the survey. “Our group worked hard with hospital management to ensure veterans receive the best possible care and that LGBT employees are able to work in a nondiscriminatory environment,” she said.

Snowdon said HRC wants to see the number of hospitals continue to grow over the years as medical staff examines training needs and reviews policies to become more competitive. She also said many hospitals should change their polices before an incident occurs.

Transgender woman Paula Witherspoon got a ticket for using a women’s restroom at Parkland last year. The incident helped prompt the hospital to add trans protections to its policies, which also extend to visitors.

Dr. Roberto De la Cruz, a gay member of Parkland’s board, created a task force to address LGBT issues and is working on a countywide assessment of LGBT health needs. Parkland added domestic partner benefits for employees in 2011.

“I am very proud that Parkland has received this designation,” De la Cruz said. “We want to provide a safe, respectful and caring environment for all of our patients. This designation indicates that we are inclusive to everyone at Parkland — patients, visitors and staff.”

Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, said she hopes more hospitals in North Texas participate in the future.

“It’s certainly impressive that a hospital as large as Parkland participated,” she said. “I hope it serves as encouragement for others to do so, too.”

RCD’s Rafael McDonnell, who’s worked with Parkland on various equality issues, said the HEI score shows a drastic change in Parkland’s culture and care of LGBT people, recalling that RCD and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance sued the county-run hospital in the late ’80s over treatment of HIV patients.

“And to think that now they’re being recognized for service to the their LGBT patients,” McDonnell said. “That’s some tangible progress.”

For full results of the 2013 HEI, visit


Leaders in healthcare equality

These facilities received perfect scores on HRC’s 2013 Healthcare Equality Index:
• VA West Texas Health Care System, Big Spring
• VA North Texas Health Care System, Dallas
• Parkland Health & Hospital System (28 facilities), Dallas
• VA El Paso Health Care System, El Paso
• VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, Harlingen
• The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
• Reproductive Medicine Associates of Texas, San Antonio
• VA South Texas Veterans Health Care System, San Antonio
• VA Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, Temple

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 19, 2013.