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Walter Reed-Bethesda named an LGBT-friendly hospital

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is among 496 hospitals nationwide listed as leaders in LGBT health care in this year's Healthcare Equality Index produced by the Human Rights Campaign.

The inclusion of the Bethesda, Maryland, hospital marks the first time a military treatment facility has been named in the report generated annually to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health care and employment policies at medical centers nationwide.

In earning the "Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality" designation, Walter Reed-Bethesda joins 99 Veterans Affairs medical centers recognized in 2016 for establishing policies considered to be LGBT friendly, including nondiscrimination employee clauses, equal visitation rights and employee training in LGBT patient care.

"We are thrilled that Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is committed to providing fully LGBT-inclusive healthcare for the thousands of wounded service members it cares for, as well as to protecting its LGBT workers from discrimination," HRC President Chad Griffin said.

For the report, HRC Foundation staff reviewed the LGBT policies and practices at more than 2,000 medical facilities, including 568 that responded to a survey from the HRC.

According to the study, the number of hospitals that have adopted inclusive patient, visitation and employment policies has "grown steadily since 2011," with 99 percent of those participating in the survey receiving the top leader honor.

A review of policies at hospitals that don't participate also found that more than half the medical centers nationwide had nondiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation and gender identity or were found to have an LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy.

And 93 percent of the 2,000 hospitals reviewed also had equal visitation policies.

"Walter Reed joins diverse healthcare facilities across the U.S. that are making tremendous strides toward LGBT patient-centered care," Healthcare Equality Index author Tari Hanneman said. "In unprecedented numbers, they are committing to fully LGBT-inclusive policies for both their patients and their employees."

Walter Reed's inclusion in the HEI comes nearly five years after the 2011 repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy that barred gays from serving openly. In recent years, a small number of transgender troops have come forward seeking the same opportunity.

In previous years, VA hospitals have scored well on the HEI index, with nearly all of the medical facilities taking part in the survey. In 2016, 99 VA medical centers received the LGBT-friendly designation, including VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, the only hospital in Utah to earn the honors.

According to the report, four states had no facilities that made the grade for top honors, including Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

In 2014 — the last time the report was issued — every state except Idaho and North Dakota had at least one facility that earned the equality leader title.

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