RTÉ’s Marian Finucane has called for the national roll-out of programme for healthcare professionals providing palliative and cancer care to lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) patients.
“It is very sad that our lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens may receive sub-optimal care at a time when they require compassionate and sensitive care most of all,” she said.
Ms Finucane was speaking at the launch of a report on the programme in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, yesterday.
The 50-minute training module was developed by the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Irish Institute of Mental Health Nursing in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).
Ms Finucane said it was heartening to see such training initiatives being developed and to hear of the openness of participants and their desire to deliver inclusive care.
She said few projects of this kind existed internationally and it might be seen as a mode of best practice in Ireland and abroad.
“All LGB patients — not just those receiving palliative care or oncology — should be treated respectfully by staff who are fully aware of their needs,” she said.
More than 200 health and social care staff from two hospitals and two hospices in Dublin participated in the training programme funded by the Irish Cancer Society, the Health Service Executive and the Irish Hospice Foundation.
Director of mental health policy with GLEN, Odhrán Allen, said gay and lesbian people were often reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation to their healthcare provider.
“They are fearful of a negative reaction or have had a negative experience when dealing with healthcare services in the past,” he said.
“This training is really, really important because it helps healthcare providers understand those fears.”
Mr Allen said the programme would also help older LGB patients, who had struggled to come out in the past, and had become fearful of disclosing their sexuality at a time when they might need convalescent nursing home care.
“Practitioners who are open and inclusive need to communicate that and create a visibility around the issues. They should not be afraid to ask a person’s sexual orientation and not assume that everyone is a heterosexual,” he said.
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