The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has entered into an agreement with Swedish Edmonds Hospital to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington began the investigation after a complainant, who is deaf, alleged that during an emergency room visit to Swedish Edmonds for her 13-year-old son, she requested a sign language interpreter, but none was provided. During the more than five hours in which her son was treated at the hospital following a severe fall, he underwent an EKG, blood draws and stitches, the announcement said. Because no sign language interpreter was made available, the complainant relied upon a non-medically certified interpreter on loan from her son’s school in order to communicate with doctors and staff regarding her son’s medical treatment.
“Every parent understands the importance of being able to communicate directly with a child’s health care provider, especially in a hospital setting,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “This resolution demonstrates our unwavering commitment to protect the rights of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to ensure that they too are able to communicate with health care professionals.”
Under the settlement reached Oct. 10, 2014, the hospital admits no law violation, wrongdoing or misconduct but agreed to the following:
– adopt policies and procedures that ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing receive auxiliary aids and/or services (including sign language interpreters when necessary) that ensure effective communication.
– train its staff on the ADA’s effective communication requirements
– reimburse $3,000 to the complainant for care provided.
Swedish spokesman Clay Holtzman said that the hospital is in the process of drafting policies and procedures in response to the settlement and will submit them by Nov. 25 to the Department of Justice for their review.
The case is part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which seeks to enforce the ADA’s prohibition of discrimination against disabled individuals by health care providers, including hospitals. The initiative includes effective communication for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, physical access to medical care for people with mobility disabilities, and equal access to treatment for people who have HIV/AIDS.
To access publications available to assist entities in complying with the ADA, visit https://www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).