Fairview Health Services is facing its second lawsuit in two years alleging discrimination against transgender clients. Last week, Gender Justice, a nonprofit based in St. Paul, filed suit on behalf of a transgender woman who was allegedly refused services at Fairview’s chemical dependency programs.
The 19 year old Carleton College student suffering from drug addition was refused entry into an out-patient, residential program because she is transgender, according to the complaint which was filed on Sept 9:
Fairview refused to admit Nova to its “Lodging Plus” program. On September 11, 2014, Nova’s mother Kathleen Wilson spoke over the telephone with Ollie Stocker, lead evaluation counselor at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. Mr. Stocker told Kathleen that Fairview would not admit Nova because she is transgender.
Attempting to explain why Fairview was refusing to provide care to Nova based on her transgender status, Mr. Stocker stated that the “Lodging Plus” program could not accommodate a transgender patient because they have separate floors for housing for male and female residents. He said that Fairview would not admit Nova because they didn’t have the resources to deal with a transgender patient. He also claimed that Fairview could not accommodate Nova because they have open showers, and because other female residents might be uncomfortable having Nova participate in group therapy sessions with them, particularly if they had been in abusive relationships.
Nova ultimately was able to access substance-abuse treatment, but not through a program that was covered by her insurance. She was able to access treatment only because she obtained public funding through a Rule 25 grant from Hennepin County. Thus, because of Fairview’s discriminatory denial of treatment and care, Nova was unable to use her private health insurance to obtain treatment, and instead, public funds had to be used to cover her treatment.
It’s the second suit against Fairview Health Services in the last two years for alleged discrimination based on gender identity. In 2014, a transgender man filed suit, alleging a series of derogatory actions by a health care provider. Fairview filed multiple motions to dismiss the case, but a judge said the case could continue based on the evidence presented. That case is still pending.
Fairview told KSTP last week that it wasn’t commenting on the most recent lawsuit but released a statement that states: “Fairview is committed to the best treatment for all patients who come to us for care. We have policies in place to prohibit discrimination and provide respectful, dignified treatment.”
Discrimination against transgender Minnesotans in the health care setting is a common but underreported occurrence. According to Rainbow Health Initiative’s 2014 Voices of Health survey, 15 percent of transgender Minnesotans experienced discrimination in the health care setting and 25 percent reported receiving poor quality care.
National advocates have developed guidelines for hospitals and health care settings that help these entities become transgender affirming settings. Lambda Legal notes:
No patient will be denied admission if a gender-appropriate bed is not available. Furthermore, complaints from another patient related to a roommate’s gender identity or expression do not constitute grounds for an exception to this room assignment policy, as would be the case for other patients protected by non-discrimination policy, standards, and/or law.
Here’s the full complaint filed on Sept. 9: