Woman sues Fairview for discrimination

The 21-year-old said the health group denied her health care because she is transgender.

Ryan Faircloth

A local resident filed a lawsuit against Fairview Health Services and the University of Minnesota Medical Center on Sept. 9, claiming the organizations denied her health care because she is transgender. 
Nova Bradford, a 21-year-old whose name is listed in the University’s directory, sought help for a severe substance-abuse problem and wasn’t allowed access to Fairview’s addiction treatment program, according to the complaint. Hospital administrators say they didn’t provide care for Bradford because they lacked proper resources to care for transgender patients.
After suffering from drug addiction, Bradford contacted the Medical Center in September 2014 seeking treatment, according to the complaint. Former Fairview chemical dependency counselor Trevor Urman recommended Bradford seek residential-based treatment, like Fairview’s program, which her insurance covered. The Medical Center denied her that care, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Ollie Stocker, Fairview lead evaluation counselor, said the hospital’s open showers and gender-separated floors would make other patients uncomfortable.
“You cannot refuse a person any kind of medical care because they’re transgender,” Bradford’s lawyer, Jill Gaulding said. “It’s a basic violation of civil rights law for a person to be rejected from health care because of their gender identity.”
Fairview said in a statement that it has policies that prohibit discrimination.
“Fairview is committed to the best treatment for all patients who come to us for care,” the statement said.
Bradford was forced to endure “trauma, humiliation, and duress,” according to the complaint.
News of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities isn’t surprising, said John Azbill-Salisbury, program director for Rainbow Health Initiative, a Minneapolis-based LGBTQ advocacy group. The initiative provides support for LGBTQ people seeking health care.
In an annual survey of LGBTQ health disparities, Rainbow Health Initiative found 44 percent of transgender respondents reported experiencing poor-quality care in their lifetime, and 25 percent reported poor-quality care in 2014.
Azbill-Salisbury said he thinks Bradford’s lawsuit will promote conversation about equal care for transgender people, and he said he hopes it’ll lead to training for health professionals about how to treat and better understand LGBTQ patients.
Bradford obtained treatment through a program her insurance didn’t cover, but she received public funding from Hennepin County to help cover the costs.
She’s suing Fairview and the University Medical Center for $75,000 in damages, claiming emotional pain, embarrassment and violation of her dignity.
Gaulding said she thinks it’s important to pursue cases concerning the transgender community and the health of its members.
“Health care itself is so vital,” she said. “When somebody can’t access health care, that undercuts their ability to live every aspect of their life.”