DOJ settles ADA allegations against Iowa hospital

Michael P. Tremoglie Apr. 3, 2012, 9:25am

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The Trinity Health Systems and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement Friday that mandates an Iowa hospital provides effective communication to the hearing impaired.

The settlement with Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge, Iowa, resolved an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit claiming the hospital failed to provide deaf individuals with sign language interpreters. One example of this alleged Trinity used a seven-year-old girl as a sign language interpreter for her deaf mother.

DOJ said that deaf patients "could not understand medical instructions, were confused about medical procedures and were forced to wait long periods of time without being able to communicate with medical staff, according to the complaint."

The action that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa alleged that Trinity Health Systems violated the ADA at Trinity Regional Medical Center because of the lack of services for the deaf.

"The Justice Department is committed to protecting the rights of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to ensure that they are provided an equal opportunity to benefit from goods and services," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

"Effective communication with individuals who are deaf is especially critical in a hospital setting where confusion and uncertainty can lead to serious consequences."

Stephanie Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, said, "This settlement is a demonstration that Trinity and the Department of Justice are working towards the same goal - to make sure that deaf and hard of hearing individuals can communicate effectively throughout their medical care."

The terms are Trinity will pay $198,000 to "aggrieved individuals" and a "$20,000 civil penalty." It must also provide training about the ADA to its personnel and ensure all necessary services are promptly provided to hearing impaired individuals.

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