MORRISTOWN, NJ - Today was about healthcare equality. In the lobby of Goryeb Children's Hospital, doctors, staff, administrators, assemblymen, senators, and guests gathered to congratulate Atlantic Health System for their effort in providing a healthcare system that is available to everyone.
Atlantic Health System was credited for being on the frontier of LGBT inclusion. To the hospital, being a leader in equality means being inclusive of patients, families, and staff by providing inclusive policies to include health records that have parent 1 and parent 2 on them instead of mother/father as well as health records that ask sexual orientation and gender identity questions.
"Look how far we have come," said Assemblyman Tim Eustace, District 38, co-chair of the NJ Legislative LGBT Caucus. "Now we are at a point in New Jersey where patients aren't leaving out important information."
Dr Daisy Chin, Pediatric Endocrinologist at Atlantic Health acknowledged the need for more access, more education and more awareness on the LGBT front. Dr. Chin runs a transgender program for children at the hospital and believes that Goryeb provides a safe space for LGBT kids and families where they can be comfortable being themselves.
"I am glad to see Atlantic Health as a forerunner and reaching out to make everyone feel welcome," said Senator Senator Ray Lesniak, District 20, Chair, NJ Senate Economic Growth Committee. "Not long ago, domestic partners were denied visiting their sick and dying partners. However, there are still many battles to be fought."
"As a gay man, born and raised in Perth Amboy, it is relieved to know that when I visit my mom, that I don't have to worry about being discriminated against for being who I am," said Marcos Garcia from the Human Rights Campaign. "A check up is just that....a check up. It is heartening to know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Jerseyians can rely on Atlantic Health Systems who will work toward providing LGBT inclusive care consistently.
Only 27 children's hospitals in the nation have been designated by the Human Rights Campaign as a leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality. Atlantic Health is looking to change the way everyday business is being conducted. Brian Gragnolati, CEO, Atlantic Health System said that it is very important to talk out loud about issues that aren't normally discussed.
"Each and everyone of us have a role because we want to constantly reinforce the message of equality, respect and dignity for every person who walks through our doors," said Gragnolati. "Here at AHS, we strive to provide the highest quality of care. That means that there are positive experiences for everyone in our network regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender. I am proud to say that we work hard everyday to make that a reality".
Having the gathering in the lobby of the Children's Hospital did not go unnoticed. Tim Gulick, a former patient, reflected on his own childhood struggle with being gay. "Some LBGT children are dying inside, so obviously there is a lot of work to do", said Gulick. "In my opinion, shame might be our biggest health crisis."
Luanne Peterpaul, Board of Directors, Garden State Equality, Chair, Garden State Equality Action Fund, said "I had been hiding a part of who I was for a long time. My safe zone, with my partner was at a hospital. When we would go visit my nephew who was battling leukemia, it was ok to hold her hand in a hospital. It was ok to feel safe in a hospital".
"We must all march together to make sure that we are all treated with respect, that's what it really boils down to, is respect and dignity", continued Peterpaul." So thank you Atlantic Healthcare System from our collective hearts."