WASHINGTON – The Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with the Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott and Prescott Valley, Ariz., to resolve an investigation into the policies and procedures for effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing at the medical center.
The complaint alleged that the medical center discriminated against individuals on the basis of disability by requiring them to sign a waiver of liability as a condition for the use of sign language interpreters. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including hearing disabilities, in hospitals.
With full cooperation from the center, the Department of Justice conducted an extensive investigation of the center’s policies and procedures with regard to the provision of auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with patients and companions with disabilities. The department gathered evidence indicating that the center’s policies, procedures and trainings were not adequately addressing effective communication with patients and companions, including the appropriate use of video remote interpreting service. The center quickly took corrective steps to ensure effective communication, and voluntarily entered into the settlement agreement.
“All individuals have a right to go to the hospital and communicate with medical staff without having to sign a waiver of liability, and hospitals have a responsibility to ensure that individuals get effective communication,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I applaud the medical center for working with us to address this matter, and we hope this agreement is a reminder for other hospital and health care providers about the requirements of the ADA.”
“Proper medical care depends on effective communication – and hospital officials are the key to making that happen. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring all individuals in this country can go to the hospital and communicate effectively with staff in order to receive proper medical care,” said Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “To hospitals: Take the appropriate steps to ensure effective communication.”
According to the agreement, the center will ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing receive a benefit equal to that provided to others, and to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, will be provided where necessary to afford effective communication between the center and individuals. To that end, the center has agreed, among other things, to improve its policies and procedures concerning effective communication, conduct training of all center staff on discrimination and effective communication, and provide annual compliance reports to the department for the next three years.
The enforcement of the ADA is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt .