Transgender men claim discrimination at Highland Hospital

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In July, Trey Lowery, a transgender man, said a nurse asked him to take a pregnancy test before getting surgery at Highland Hospital.

“I told her ‘why am I taking a pregnancy test when you know I’m a male and I’m fully trans?’ She said I’m just doing my job,” he said. Lowery was about to get bariatic sleeve surgery. URMC screening for pregnancy before surgery is one of the hospital’s policies, which includes transgender people as they may reproductive organs.

Lowery says nurses continued to refer to him as “she” even though he corrected them and his driver license said male. When Lowery was sharing his story, he learned met Cori Smith, a transgender male who had a similar experience in 2014. Smith went to the emergency room at Highland for ovarian pain. He recalls an OBGYN and hospital staff treated him differently because Smith was transgender.

“They gave me a female wristband, they put my prior name on the wristband, even though I showed them my ID and my ID says male.” Smith continued, “”Immediately upon getting there, they didn’t treat me with respect. [The doctor] flat out laughed and called me “it”, “she”, “they”. They weren’t taking the amount of pain I was in seriously at all.”

URMC issued a statement in regards to Trey Lowery’s case:

“Highland Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality, compassionate, and safe care to all of our patients. Likewise, we take patient concerns very seriously and, when issues are brought to our attention, we conduct a thorough review to determine whether staff members took all appropriate steps to care for the patient. Upon completion of our review of this patient’s case, we believe that his care was medically appropriate and compassionate. However, we will continue to reflect on this individual’s experience to see if there is anything we can do better.”

In 2018, UR Medicine and Highland provided a statement in regards to Cori Smith’s case:

“UR Medicine believes that Mr. Smith received appropriate medical treatment at Highland Hospital in response to his need for emergency care in November 2014. This is based on a thorough review of the medical record by clinical professionals on Highland’s patient safety team, a review which included interviews with Mr. Smith’s attending physicians and other caregivers.

Leaders of UR Medicine’s quality and patient satisfaction teams reached out to Mr. Smith last summer after he raised a separate concern not specifically related to Highland Hospital. They spoke about his entire experience as a transgender patient in the UR Medicine system. Mr. Smith’s input helped significantly to inform efforts we have already implemented, and others currently underway, to make systems and practices at our hospitals more sensitive to and affirming of the needs of transgender and gender diverse patients, without compromising quality or safety of care.”

In the past five years, URMC says they have taken steps to support transgender and gender nonconforming patients at Highland Hospital. Some of the steps are removing gender from patient wristbands and updating gender, name and pronouns on medical and billing records.

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