News and Press Releases

Monadnock Community Hospital Enters Into Settlement Agreement To Resolve Alleged Violations Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2013

            

CONCORD, NH- Monadnock Community Hospital of Peterborough, New Hampshire, without admitting liability, has entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services (such as sign language interpreters) that were necessary to ensure effective communication with deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals, announced United States Attorney John P. Kacavas

              Amy Dauphinais is deaf and communicates primarily via American Sign Language.  She alleged that the hospital failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary for effective communication.  She alleged that she was unable to communicate adequately with hospital personnel while she was receiving medical treatment at the hospital in 2010 because she was not provided with a sign language interpreter or other adequate auxiliary aids.  She also alleged that she was required to use her minor daughter to interpret for her.

As part of the settlement, the hospital, which cooperated in the investigation, agreed to establish a program to ensure that it provides effective communication to deaf and hard-of-hearing patients in the future.   This includes the appointment of Program Administrators to answer questions and provide appropriate assistance regarding immediate access to and proper use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services required by the settlement agreement.  The hospital has agreed to make efforts to determine the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and to provide them with appropriate auxiliary aids and services (including qualified interpreters) in a timely fashion.  Among other things, the hospital has agreed to provide training for the staff and to provide reports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding its compliance with the agreement. The hospital also agreed to pay $5,000.00 to the complainant, Amy Dauphinais.

            Under the ADA, health care providers must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities.  The ADA applies to all hospital programs and services, such as emergency room care, inpatient and outpatient services, surgery, clinics, educational classes, and cafeteria and gift shop services.  Wherever deaf patients or their companions are interacting with medical staff, a health care provider is obligated to provide effective communication.  When complex communication is involved (such as when discussing complex medical issues), the ADA often requires health care providers to provide sign language interpreters for deaf or hard-of-hearing patients or other deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals (such as the deaf parents of a minor child).  More information about the ADA may be found at www.ada.gov.

            “The Department of Justice takes these civil rights violations seriously,” said Eve L. Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  “The U.S. Attorneys are key partners in stopping discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the critical area of health care and we are very pleased to be working with them.”

United States Attorney John P. Kacavas observed that “full and proper access to health care for people with disabilities is a civil right and my office will continue to eradicate the barriers to such access wherever they may arise.”

            This agreement is part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, a multi-faceted initiative that addresses access to health care for people with disabilities, including individuals with hearing and mobility disabilities and for people with HIV.  It is a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the nation, to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities.  The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of more than 40 U.S. Attorneys’ office, including the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire. Information about the initiative can be found by visiting www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm.

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