The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a proposed consent decree with Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Centers (BDP) and American Vision Partners (AVP), to resolve its lawsuit alleging that the eye care practices violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit alleged that BDP and AVP refused to operate on certain patients who needed assistance transferring from their wheelchairs for surgery and required other such patients to pay for third-party medical transport and transfer assistance. Medical providers routinely offer this type of assistance to patients who need help transferring from a wheelchair to an examination or surgical table for surgery and exams.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires health care providers to offer equal access to their services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Patients with disabilities must not be denied crucial medical services or forced to pay surcharges because they need transfer assistance. The Justice Department is fully committed to protecting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities to get the medical care they need.”
“This agreement reflects an important step in obtaining equal access to health care services for Arizonans with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work closely with the Civil Rights Division to ensure that all Arizonans are afforded equal opportunity to access health care services in our state.”
Under the decree, BDP and AVP will end their policies of denying surgery and prohibiting staff from providing transfer assistance to people with mobility disabilities. BDP operates eye care facilities throughout Arizona, and AVP, one of the largest eye care practice management organizations in the country, partners with eye care providers in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas, including BDP, Southwestern Eye Center, M & M Eye Institute, Retinol Consultants of Arizona, Abrams Eye Institute, Southwest Eye Institute, Aiello Eye Institute, Havasu Eye Center, Visage Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery and Moretsky Cassidy Vision Correction. These eye care providers will also train staff on the new policy requirements and on safe transfer techniques, and pay $950,000 to patients and prospective patients who were harmed by its policies and a civil penalty of $50,000.
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit http://www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed online at http://www.ada.gov/complaint.