Lesbian couple demands hospital apology

June 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Solano County couple is demanding an apology from a Fresno hospital claiming they were treated differently.

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Kristin Orbin was taken to a Central Valley hospital last month and she says she's never been treated so poorly. She and her partner Teresa Rowe had attended a same-sex marriage rally in Fresno when she suffered an epileptic seizure.

The ambulance took the Suisun City couple to Community Regional Medical Center, where they say they encountered a hostile staff.

"When the paramedic told her where we came from she replied 'Oh,' with like a pretty nasty attitude," says Orbin.

The couple says things only got worse. Teresa says she wasn't allowed to visit Kristin because it was a "no visitor zone." She even offered to supply an advance health care directive.

"She said, 'That's not necessary. That's not why. It's a no visitor zone' and she shrugged it off," says Rowe.

"I looked around and saw that other people had visitors and when I asked why they said 'Because those people are different,'" says Orbin.

To Orbin and Rowe, it was clear they were being discriminated for being a same-sex couple. They're now asking Community Regional Medical Center to change its visitation policy and to train its staff to better deal with the gay and lesbian community.

Rowe and Orbin are also demanding an apology from the hospital which they say would go a long way in putting this matter behind them.

However, the hospital says it did nothing wrong. Its spokesperson wrote, "In the interest of other patients' privacy, visitation in a busy emergency unit often must be constrained, and we understand an individual patient may not be aware of those circumstances."

UCSF Dr. Patricia Robertson, M.D., doesn't buy it. She's also a member of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

"Most emergency rooms actually really value visitors to not only comfort their family member, but to get their family history and to listen to the treatment plan," said Dr. Robertson.

Orbin and Rowe have given the hospital until June 22nd to formally respond. Otherwise, they'll consider taking legal action.

"I knew that I was going to be OK, but it was for other people in the LGBT community who die alone without their partners and that just makes me very sad," says Orbin.

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