In the Human Rights Campaign’s 2019 Healthcare Equality Index, Philadelphia was among the highest-ranked cities in the country for LGBTQ-friendly medical care. But is the city able to care for its trans population?
A lack of statistics makes it difficult to determine.
Several large medical systems call the greater Philadelphia area home including Jefferson Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Virtua Health Systems, Cooper University Health Care and Einstein Health, but most are unable to provide data on trans-competent providers.
“Einstein does offer trans-specific training, but we do not have the numbers on how many providers we've trained prior to when our current manager took over the training this year,” said Judy Horwitz, Einstein Health’s senior communication specialist.
Virtua’s media relations representative Daniel Moise indicated similar practices, “At present, Virtua does not keep records on whether our physicians have pursued/completed training pertaining to transgender patients. That said, I know of a few Virtua physicians who have extensive experience and education on caring for the LGBTQ community and transgender people specifically.”
A 2017 study indicated, “the biggest barrier to health care reported by transgender individuals is lack of access due to lack of providers who are sufficiently knowledgeable on the topic.” The same study recommends national studies be conducted to determine the capacity for the U.S. healthcare system to provide treatment to trans patients, specifically the number of providers needed for care.
CHOP and Cooper University Health Care both indicated they provide training on LGBTQ-related topics, but also did not have specific statistics on providers who have trained in transgender-related care.
While Jefferson Health’s Brandon Lausch didn’t provide specific numbers, he did say, “When Jefferson’s Trans Wellness Health Program launched prior to treating the first patient, the staff there completed online training.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) 2015 study indicated 24 percent of trans patients who saw a provider in the last year had to educate the provider to receive appropriate care.
“Transgender patients who need to teach their providers about transgender people are significantly more likely to postpone or not seek needed care,” according to a 2016 study published in Medical Care.
One-third of respondents in NCTE’s study, the largest survey of transgender people, indicated a negative experience with a health care provider. The stories of Robert Eads and Tyra Hunter linger still. Eads, a trans man, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was denied care by over a dozen doctors before being treated. Tyra Hunter, a trans woman, died after a car accident where witnesses indicated that while rescuers began working on Hunter, “They were so stunned to discover he was a man that they stopped treating him and laughed and joked.”
Trans people are filling in the data gaps by creating community-sourcing websites and apps to highlight where trans folks can go for care.
One such resource is the website MyTransHealth, whose mission is to “to ensure that all trans and gender-nonconforming people receive culturally competent service.” However, a quick search for trans-related medical care in the Philadelphia area yields no results.