January 4, 2017

UConn's hospital settles ADA-breach claim

UConn Health Center's John Dempsey Hospital.

UConn's teaching hospital in Farmington has agreed to a federal settlement that improves the quality of services to its deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, authorities say.

John Dempsey Hospital and Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly announced settlement terms Tuesday, including the hospital's agreement to a $20,000 penalty to resolve the matter.

According to federal investigators, a patient who is deaf and communicates via sign language lodged a complaint, alleging John Dempsey Hospital denied the patient a signing interpreter or access to other communications options for the hearing impaired during her emergency-room visit.

The patient claimed she had to rely on her boyfriend's limited signing skills to convey details of her illness to her, authorities said. Two days later, the patient's symptoms intensified, resulting in her going to another hospital for an emergency appendectomy.

Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits public entities, including hospitals, from discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by excluding such individuals from participation in or denying them the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or subjecting them to discrimination by any public entity.

A public entity must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford individuals with disabilities, including applicants, participants, companions, and members of the public, an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity of a public entity.

Under the agreement, which includes a five-year monitoring period, John Dempsey Hospital agreed to take critical steps toward improving access to ensure communication with deaf and hard of hearing individuals is as effective as communication with those without disabilities, authorities said.

These include revising its policies and procedures, revising its training, and performing initial and ongoing assessments of the need for auxiliary aids and services for patients and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In recent years, federal prosecutors in Connecticut and neighboring states have resolved ADA-related breaches at brick-and-mortar and online sites involving several financial institutions, a supermarket chain, hotels and restaurants.

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