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Press Release

University of Vermont Medical Center Agrees to Resolve Joint Investigation by United States Attorney’s Office and Department of Health and Human Services into Complaints of Ineffective Communication with Individuals who are Deaf

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Vermont

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that it has resolved its investigation into complaints that UVMMC personnel failed to effectively communicate with two individuals who are deaf during medical visits. This agreement resolves the allegations that UVMMC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) during these encounters. The matter was jointly handled by United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The complaints were brought to the attention of the United States by Vermont Legal Aid. These complaints are being resolved contemporaneously with similar complaints made to the Vermont Human Rights Commission (VHRC). UVMMC, VHRC, and Vermont Legal Aid have worked collaboratively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HHS to resolve the issues raised by the complaints.

“Being able to communicate effectively with medical providers is fundamental to meaningfully accessing health care,” said U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan. “This resolution agreement demonstrates our office’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Vermonters and visitors to our state, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

“We strive to provide all of our patients with the highest quality of care, but unfortunately we did not meet that goal in these cases,” said Eileen Whalen, RN, MHA, president and chief operating officer of the University of Vermont Medical Center. “We have taken many steps to strengthen our interpreter services including hiring an Interpreter Services Coordinator, educating staff on the resources we have and how to use them, and upgrading our remote interpretation technology. We’ll continue to seek out opportunities to strengthen our services and policies regarding the treatment of Deaf patients, and maintain the involvement of our patient and family advisors who have provided valuable guidance in this area.”

Pursuant to the resolution agreement, UVMMC will timely provide qualified interpreters when necessary to ensure effective communication with patients and companions; institute a grievance procedure; provide comprehensive training to its personnel on effective communication; and designate a program administrator to coordinate access to auxiliary aids and services 24/7. For approximately two years, UVMMC will provide the United States with reports documenting its compliance with the agreement.

Assistant United States Attorneys Nikolas P. Kerest and Jules Torti jointly handled this matter for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont. Erika Smart, Assistant General Counsel for UVMMC, handled this matter on behalf of UVMMC.

For more information on the ADA, visit or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at contact the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) 800-514-0383 (TTY).

Updated November 29, 2017

Civil Rights