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Was This Man Was Denied Overnight Care Because He's HIV-Positive?

gary cooper

The physician allegedly said, "Oh no. We can't have an HIV Problem." 

A man was denied an overnight stay at a small regional center outside Austin, TX because he was HIV-positive. 

As The Austin Chronicle reports, Gary Cooper, 71, was sick on the night of December 1, which brought him to The Hospital at Westlake Medical Center in West Lake Hills, TX. The hospital has an emergency room and is known in the community for promoting “door to doctor” visits. 

Cooper had been treated there before, but due to a heart condition he wanted to tread lightly so he asked the ER doctor if he might stay overnight for monitoring. At first, the doctor thought it was a good idea — until they called the admitting physician. 

“Oh no,” the physician allegedly said. “We couldn’t handle an HIV problem.” 

Cooper was first diagnosed positive in 1985, and is well known in the Austin area as an advocate and activist in the HIV community. Currently he is a board member at AIDS Services of Austin. 

After disclosing to his doctor that he is undetectable, and had been for 20 years, and that his current illness had nothing to do with HIV, the center apparently offered him a ride to a downtown hospital that had “more HIV staff.” A friend ended up driving Cooper home, while other friends stood by his side all night to nurse him back to health.

At the end of the day, it was most likely a case of food poisoning. 

After the incident, Cooper took to Facebook: "I have not heard such nonsense since the mid 1980s," he wrote, "My primary care physician as well as the cardiologist who treated me at Westlake Hospital last year were both appalled."

District 6 Council Member, Jimmy Flannigan, told the Chronicle, "How many people has that happened to who aren't in the position to do what Gary was able to do? And make it visible. And be in a place where you know you're not going to lose your job, or you know you're not going to lose your family, or you're not going to lose your friends and support network."

Cooper also spoke to the hospital’s CEO, Robin Allen, who then said it wasn’t their policy to turn away patients because of their HIV status. Since then, the hospital issued a statement: 

"The Hospital at Westlake Medical Center provides quality, compassionate care to all patients. The Hospital does not discriminate against any patient on any legally protected basis, or otherwise, in any care setting. Because of patient privacy laws, The Hospital cannot comment on specific patient care issues."

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David Artavia

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