FRISBIE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL ENTERS INTO
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT TO RESOLVE ALLEGED VIOLATIONS
OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Frisbie Memorial Hospital of Rochester, New Hampshire 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. 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. The hospital also agreed to pay $35,000.00 to the complainants, Donald and Rosalie Varley.
Rosalie Varley is deaf and communicates primarily via American Sign Language. Donald Varley is hard-of-hearing. The Varley's alleged that the hospital failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary for effective communication. They also alleged that Rosalie Varley was unable to communicate adequately with hospital personnel while she was receiving medical treatment at the hospital in 2005 because she was not provided with sign language interpreters or other adequate auxiliary aids and because hospital staff did not know how to operate certain aids. On some occasions Rosalie was required to rely upon Donald Varley (who is hard-of-hearing) to assist her in communicating about her medical concerns.
Without admitting any liability, the hospital has entered into a settlement agreement to resolve the allegations. As part of the agreement, the hospital has agreed to establish a program to provide effective communication for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 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 also has agreed to obtain and provide other equipment to assist individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, to provide training for the staff, and to provide reports to the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding its compliance with the agreement.
In commenting on the settlement, U.S. Attorney Kacavas said, "Protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities is a priority of the United States Attorney's Office. Under the ADA, individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are entitled to effective communication when they seek medical care. They need to be able to explain their conditions to their health care providers and understand what their health care providers are telling them. My office will continue to investigate possible violations of the ADA and to educate health care providers in New Hampshire about the importance of communicating effectively with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing."
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.
This case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney John J. Farley with assistance from the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice.