Pullman hospital polls residents on sex reassignment surgery

Pullman Hospital offered transition-related surgeries on a trial basis. Official logo.

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Jessie Jane Miller, 44, was an adult before she came out as a transgender woman. That same urge for privacy had prompted Miller to keep a low profile after her sex reassignment surgery at Pullman Regional Hospital in early June.

Now the hospital's board is taking public comment on whether to continue offering the surgery, which was done on a trial basis, The Spokesman-Review reported Sunday.

Pullman Regional Hospital could become the first Washington hospital to offer below-the-waist sex reassignment surgery transitioning males to females. Scott Adams, the hospital's chief executive, said Oregon Health and Science University in Portland is the only other hospital in the Northwest he is aware of that performs the procedure, which is called vaginoplasty.

"To the best of our knowledge, we would be the first in Washington, though we have not canvassed the state's 100-plus hospitals," Adams said.

Miller had one of two vaginoplasties done at the 25-bed hospital in June by Dr. Geoffrey Stiller, a local plastic surgeon. Stiller wants to continue offering the surgery in Pullman.

The public hospital's board is evaluating whether Pullman Regional will offer the surgery on an ongoing basis. Questions remain about cost and patient-care requirements, Adams said.

About 300 local residents have sent written comments to the hospital's board of commissioners on the issue. Some opposed sex reassignment surgery on religious grounds, while others questioned whether the small hospital was the right place to offer the surgery.

But many of the comments were supportive. "Don't let the bigots win," one letter writer said.

Others said the hospital board should make the decision based on whether Pullman Regional Hospital had the resources to provide quality care, not public opinion.

Miller wants her voice to be part of the discussion. The recent surgery marked a long journey for the Moses Lake resident, who grew up in Chewelah, about 50 miles north of Spokane.

Miller said she was 20 before she learned that other transgender people existed.

Even if she had known earlier, she couldn't picture herself coming out as a transgender woman in high school.

"There wasn't a gay person in our high school; there was no LGBT in our town," she said. "I lived in the closet. I couldn't even tell my twin brother."

Miller spent 5 1/2 years in the Air Force, earned a master's degree, married and divorced. She's the single parent of a 9-year-old daughter.

The surgery was possible for her because Stiller accepted Apple Health, which provides free or low-cost health insurance through Washington's Medicaid expansion, Miller said. National cost estimates for a vaginoplasty are in the $15,000 to $30,000 range.

The hospital board is accepting public comments on sex reassignment surgery through Monday. Adams said he doesn't know when a decision will be made.

Copyright Associated Press. The Gayly - 7/2/2017 @ 3:12 p.m. CST