BOSTON – Baystate Medical Center (Baystate) has agreed to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide effective communication during scheduled labors and deliveries of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The agreement resolves a complaint by an individual who is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. The complaint alleges that Baystate failed to provide the aggrieved party with effective ASL communication during her scheduled labor and delivery, in violation of the ADA. While investigating this complaint, another aggrieved party who was not provided with an ASL accommodation during two scheduled labors and deliveries was identified.
Under the terms of the agreement, Baystate will ensure effective communication by providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including ASL interpreters, and implementing personnel training. Additionally, Baystate will pay a total of $135,000 to the aggrieved parties.
“Effective communication between moms and healthcare providers is important – never more so than at childbirth,” said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “This settlement is another example of the ADA at work – in this case ensuring that moms who are deaf or hard of hearing will receive services that provide necessary, effective communication with health care providers at Baystate Medical Center.”
“At no time should any person have to undergo a health care procedure or receive services without the basic ability to communicate with their health care providers. This agreement underscores that the availability of auxiliary aids and services are essential to meaningful access to quality health care,” said Lisa J. Pino, Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights. “Providers must understand their obligations under law and ensure patients can understand and communicate effectively so that no one’s health is jeopardized simply because a person is deaf or hard of hearing.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell and HHS OCR Director Pino made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Dorchak of Mendell’s Civil Rights Unit and Erin Walker of HHS’s Office for Civil Rights handled the matter.