UNITED STATES ATTORNEY RESOLVES INVESTIGATION INTO LOCAL HOSPITAL WITH AGREEMENT TO ENSURE ACCESS FOR DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING PATIENTS
BOSTON, Mass. - United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced today that the United States has reached a settlement with Beverly Hospital, a Massachusetts health care provider, in connection with an investigation of alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
The investigation, which resulted from a citizen complaint, centered on allegations that Beverly Hospital failed to provide qualified sign language interpreters to one or more deaf patients. As a result, these patients could not communicate effectively with staff and health care providers during the course of their treatment. While these allegations were substantiated by the Government's investigation, the inquiry also revealed significant good-faith efforts by the Hospital to improve access to hospital services by the deaf and hard-of-hearing, including increased training and updated procedures for its staff.
Based on these findings, the Government has reached a three-year agreement with the Hospital that will solidify and expand these efforts to ensure adequate access to interpreter services for all deaf and hard of hearing patients, as well as their companions, as the ADA requires. Under the agreement, Beverly has agreed to:
- Commit to provide live interpretation where available and financially feasible, and to use remote-accessed video interpretation services where live interpretation is not feasible or available, as well as Telecommunications Device for the Deaf ("TTY") access;
- Clarify its written and staff policy to cover family members/next of kin (i.e. to ensure that these individuals, if deaf or hard of hearing, are also provided with interpreter services in interacting with medical staff);
- Commit to annual training on access to services by the deaf and hard of hearing; with requirement that all nursing staff attend at least once every three years; and
- Commit to reconstitute a deaf and hard-of-hearing performance team for at least the life of the agreement. This team will track complaints, issues, concerns, etc., and will issue written reports annually, which will be provided to the Government.
"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all individuals receive the equal and adequate access to public accommodations and services that they deserve, and that our laws require - regardless of their circumstances or disabilities," said U.S. Attorney Ortiz. "We are pleased both by Beverly Hospital's cooperation and agreement to ongoing efforts to assure adequate access for members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community."
The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha of Ortiz's Civil Division and Roberta Kirkendall of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Section in Washington, D.C.
The aggressive enforcement of federal civil rights laws is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2010, to coordinate the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in enforcing federal civil rights laws, U.S. Attorney Ortiz formed the Civil Rights Enforcement Team (CRET) which is composed of Assistant U.S. Attorneys and support staff from the criminal and civil divisions. For more information please visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/civilrights/cret.html