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Floyd Medical Center to Address Deaf Patient Concerns as Part of Settling Three ADA Complaints

October 10, 2015
Source: Northwest Georgia News

Floyd Medical Center (FMC) has agreed to take steps to improve communication with the deaf community as part of a federal settlement. The agreement comes after complaints were filed against the hospital, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office. FMC also agreed to pay $75,000 to the complainants.

The U.S. Attorneys Office initiated an investigation after receiving three complaints alleging that FMC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and communication services.

“When a deaf patient or caregiver is unable to understand what is happening during a medical visit or procedure, it can be a terrifying experience and adversely affect the quality of care,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a release Thursday. “Deaf or hard of hearing citizens deserve the same opportunities to participate in medical decisions as every other citizen.”

The complainants, who are deaf or hard of hearing and rely on American Sign Language as their primary means of communication, were either patients or primary caregivers of patients at the hospital.

One woman said she endured a complicated labor and delivery by C-section without any effective communication before or during this procedure.

Another woman, who was the primary caregiver for her elderly father, said she was effectively denied the ability to fully participate in — or understand — the medical decision-making regarding his terminal illness or discharge to home hospice care.

According to a statement issued by the hospital, two of the three incidents occurred in 2011 and one occurred in 2012.

No complaints have been issued in the three years since, according to FMC.

FMC has agreed to appoint a hearing-impaired coordinator, who will be alerted when a patient or family member requests interpreting services. The coordinator will be available to respond to any request 24 hours a day, seven day a week, according to FMC.

In most cases where sign language interpreting is needed, FMC uses an ADA-approved video remote interpreting service that links the patient and caregivers to a live interpreter remotely, the hospital reported.

FMC also has agreed to provide mandatory training to all its personnel and provide compliance reports to the U.S. Attorneys Office. The training will address the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and companions.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by health care professionals. When complex and lengthy communication is involved, it generally requires qualified sign language interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the release states.

The FMC settlement is part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice Department civil rights program called the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative.

Previously posted: Floyd Medical Center issued the following statement this afternoon after it was revealed the hospital reached a settlement over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act:

The three incidents referenced in todays settlement agreement occurred in 2011 (2) and 2012 (1). There have been no complaints in the three years since.

Floyd has agreed to appoint a Hearing Impaired Coordinator, who will be alerted anytime a patient or family member requests interpreting services. The Hearing Impaired Coordinator will be available to respond to any request 24 hours a day, seven day a week.

In most cases where sign language interpreting is needed, Floyd uses an ADA approved video remote interpreting service (VRI), which links the patient and caregivers to a live interpreter remotely. To maintain the excellent service provided in similar situations during the last three years, we will provide enhanced staff training on the availability and use of VRI technology.

Previously posted: The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Georgia has reached a settlement agreement with Floyd Medical Center, a system of health care providers located in Rome, Georgia, to resolve an investigation into allegations that it violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“When a deaf patient or caregiver is unable to understand what is happening during a medical visit or procedure, it can be a terrifying experience and adversely affect the quality of care,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “Deaf or hard of hearing citizens deserve the same opportunities to participate in medical decisions as every other citizen.”

The U.S. Attorneys Office initiated an investigation after receiving three complaints alleging that Floyd failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication. The complainants, who are deaf or hard of hearing and rely on American Sign Language as their primary means of communication, were either patients or the primary caregivers of patients at Floyd.

One claimant alleged that she endured a complicated labor and delivery by C-section without any effective communication before or during this procedure. Another complainant, who was the primary caregiver for her elderly father, alleged that she was denied effective communication and therefore unable to fully participate in or understand the medical decision-making regarding his terminal illness or discharge to home hospice care.

Under the settlement agreement, Floyd agreed to ensure effective communication to patients who are deaf and hard of hearing. In the future, Floyd agreed to give primary consideration to the expressed preference for a particular auxiliary aid or service by an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing. Among other things, Floyd has agreed to provide mandatory in-service training to all its personnel and provide reports to the U.S. Attorneys Office regarding its compliance with the settlement agreement. The training will address the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and companions. Floyd also agreed to pay $75,000 to the complainants.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by health care professionals. Under the ADA, health care providers are required to provide effective communication to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. When complex, lengthy communication is involved, the ADA generally requires health care professionals to provide qualified sign language interpreters for the person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

This agreement is part of the Department of Justices Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which is a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys offices across the nation, to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities. The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of more than 40 U.S. Attorneys offices, including the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Georgia. Information about the initiative can be found at www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aileen Bell-Hughes and Emily Shingler are representing the United States in this matter.

Link: Go to website for News Source
http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/news/local/floyd-medical-center-to-address-deaf-patient-concerns-as-part/article_c286e9fc-6dee-11e5-ac0e-ef1d91f67d05.html


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