The President of the Medical Council, Dr Suzanne Crowe, has called upon regulators, public and professional bodies in Ireland to welcome staff from the LGBT+ community.
Following LGBT Ireland’s conference ‘Transforming Healthcare for LGBTQI+ Communities: Confronting Stigma and Prioritizing Mental Health’ at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dr Crowe highlighted the barriers in healthcare faced by marginalised groups, and the importance of showing compassion and respect for all people.
“As doctors, we treat members of the LGBTQI+ community and as patients, we are treated and cared for by members of the LGBTQI+ community. Mutual trust and respect are central to the doctor-patient relationship. Exclusion only adds to and perpetuates the harm that patients may experience in accessing healthcare, especially mental health care.
“As well as this, members of the LGBTQI+ community, as well as vulnerable groups such as the elderly, migrants and refugees, and the Traveller community have unique healthcare needs. LGBTQI+ healthcare workers can bring a unique understanding to patient care, particularly those at risk of marginalization within health and social care, helping those patients to feel safe and heard in the healthcare environment.
“To ensure the medical profession is meeting their needs, doctors should not only acknowledge this, but develop empathy and an understanding of the challenges each community and individual faces, because one of the key roles a doctor plays is as an advocate. In the Medical Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics, the role of the doctor as an ‘advocate’ is described. It is the ethical duty of a doctor to speak up for their patients, and any suggestion a doctor might be silenced when doing so is not acceptable,” Dr Crowe said.
Leo Kearns, CEO of the Medical Council said, “As with many elements of our society, the medicine and healthcare sectors in Ireland have much to do to rebuild trust with the LGBTQI+ community.
“Measures agreed by Government, such as the disregard of historic convictions for consensual sexual activity between men, as well as healthcare funding for the development of an app for PrEP medical pathways and funding for onsite counselling at HIV Ireland, are welcome milestones. While the shame of the past won’t be forgotten, these are positive marks of progression which will help to bring trust and pride into healthcare.”
Training opportunities, such as the LGBT+ Champions programme, are available to doctors and healthcare professionals to help them understand the identities and advocate for the needs of their LGBTI+ patients. These are provided by LGBT Ireland, the HSE, postgraduate training bodies, universities, advocacy groups and charities.