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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arrowhead Regional Medical Center Agrees to Comply with Federal Law by Improving Access for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) in Colton, California, has entered into an agreement with the United States to resolve allegations that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide qualified interpreters and other services to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Under the voluntary compliance agreement, ARMC will provide equipment and services to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have equal access to medical services, which includes giving them the ability to effectively communicate with hospital staff.

“Ensuring equal access to hospital services for individuals with disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, is a priority of the Civil Rights Division,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “We are proud to partner with and support the U.S. Attorney's important work in this area.”

“People who are deaf or hard of hearing have a right to clear and effective communication with physicians, nurses and all hospital staff members in order to ensure that they and their loved ones receive the same medical care that is available to every other person,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California.  “This settlement is the latest step in the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to eliminate discriminatory barriers of all kinds.”

ARMC, which is operated by San Bernardino County, California, is a 456-bed general medical and surgical hospital that includes a burn center, a primary stroke center, a behavioral health center and four primary care centers.  The hospital’s emergency room saw more than 116,000 patient visits in 2014.

The department received a complaint in 2012 from a deaf woman who alleged that ARMC personnel failed to provide a qualified sign language interpreter when necessary to ensure effective communication with her while her husband was a patient at ARMC.

Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California received a complaint from a deaf patient who alleged that ARMC failed to provide her with a sign language interpreter while she was a patient.  The office opened an investigation and, following extensive discussions with the hospital, ARMC agreed to voluntarily resolve the allegations.           

Under the settlement, ARMC must take steps to ensure that it provides effective communication to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.  For example, ARMC will set up Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) equipment within 20 minutes of a request for VRI, or will provide an in-person interpreter within two hours of an emergency, if possible.

ARMC has also agreed to:

  • provide auxiliary aids necessary for effective communication;

  • designate an employee as an ADA coordinator;

  • revise its policy on the provision of effective communication to issue clear direction to its staff and physicians regarding the need to provide auxiliary aids to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons;
  • modify its patient intake form;

  • train its staff and physicians on relevant ADA matters;

  • monitor the effectiveness of contract interpreters; and

  • provide reports to the U.S. Attorney's Office so it can assess compliance with the ADA.

The people who made complaints to the department about ARMC’s violations of the ADA filed a lawsuit that also was settled this week.  As part of that settlement, ARMC will pay a total of $100,000 and the hospital will comply with the terms of the settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.          

The settlement with ARMC is part of the nationwide Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative (BFHCI), a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to medical services.  This is the first settlement under the BFHCI involving a health care provider in San Bernardino County.         

The agreement with ARMC is the second settlement with a health care provider under the BFHCI in the Central District of California.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into a settlement last month with Integrated Healthcare Medical Group Inc. (IHMG), a family practice with medical offices in Redondo Beach and Westwood.  Pursuant to the agreement, IHMG agreed to implement an ADA policy for effective communication; provide auxiliary aids and services to the deaf and hard of hearing when necessary for effective communication; train its doctors and staff on the provision of such auxiliary aids and services; provide notice to patients that such aids and services are available; and provide certifications to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.       

For more information on the ADA, visit www.ada.gov or call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).

CONTACT:     Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica L. Miller

                        U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California

                        Civil Division

                        (213) 894-4061

15-1046
Updated August 26, 2015