Summary of State Law Requirements Addressing Language Needs in Health Care:
All states have law on language access and health. There is a 50 state plus survey on state statutes/regulations related to language access and health. You can search by state or by topic.
Florida Commits to Provide Effective Communication for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
Florida, USA (Business Wire): The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) will provide qualified sign language interpreters as required by federal law to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons using its programs and services across the state under a Settlement Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Florida-Commits-to-Provide-bw-1765879295.html?x=0&.v=1%20
University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics to Ensure Effective Communication for Persons w/ Disabilities
Utah, USA: Patients with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities, who receive care at University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, will be screened and provided with auxiliary aids & services as required by federal law under a Resolution Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services..
Famous 1980 Florida Case of Willie Ramirez
Language Access Legal "Cheat Sheet"
Title VI Resolution Agreement between the US Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services - August 12, 2008
Office for Civil Rights: Summary of Selected OCR LEP Complaint Investigations and Compliance Reviews
LEP Policy - Guidance for HHS Recipients PDF
Lawsuit: Deaf patients didn't get interpreters
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Seven hearing-impaired emergency room patients are suing Baptist Health Systems for allegedly failing to provide qualified sign language interpreters. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Jacksonville, claims the health care provider violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. One patient said she was given a stuffed monkey instead of a sign language interpreter. Another couldn't hear when her name was called by emergency workers. A Baptist spokeswoman told The Florida Times Union the hospital couldn't comment on the lawsuit because it had not been served a copy. She added that they are committed to effective patient communication. An attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, which filed the suit, said deaf patients were denied full access to care. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/11/1674899/lawsuit-deaf-patients-didnt-get.html
Nashua hospital settles ADA complaint, Lacked interpreter for deaf patient
Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2010/07/23/nashua_hospital_settles_ada_complaint?mode=PF
Reyes and Penado vs. Washington HHS
Language Access Problems Among DOJ’s State Court Grantees
The Hernandez Case demonstrated the failure to clearly understand English-only discharge instructions and ineffective oral communication in spite of the presence of numerous bilingual providers.
The patient presented with a workplace injury after heavy metal rollers fell on his foot. He later alleged that the physician negligently treated his injury thereby causing the amputation of his lower leg. The patient spoke both English and Spanish at home. The patient's wife was born and educated in Mexico until she was 21 years old. Although she understood a little bit of English and used some at work, she was more comfortable using Spanish. No mention was made in the medical records of any use of a competent interpreter.
The defendant and one medical assistant testified that they spoke Spanish "well enough" to communicate with patients. The depositions noted that the co-defendant orthopedist spoke Spanish but also noted that although he did not consider himself fluent in Spanish, he felt reasonably comfortable with Spanish-speaking patients during exam and treatment. When he asked the patient if he could examine the leg, it became clear that Mr. Hernandez spoke Spanish better than English. From that point on, the co-defendant asked every question in both English and Spanish. The ability of the provider to speak Spanish and the patient to speak English was important to the case because the physician argued that the patient's leg might have been saved if he had followed up with his orthopedist within
24 hours of discharge. The only written discharge instructions found in the file was in English.
Ineffective oral and written communication may have resulted in the patient's lack of understanding of the urgency for follow-up. This case demonstrated how a provider's self-identified language skills can cause a provider to forego use of an interpreter despite sufficient proficiency to obtain complete information from and effective communication with the patient. The court ruled on summary judgment in favor of the defendant with no damages paid to the plaintiff. The Carrier paid legal fees of $46,500.
Legal Risks of Ineffective Communication
Abigail Van Kempen
American Medical Association Journal of Ethics
August 2007, Volume 9, Number 8: 555-558
Case 34-2010: A 65-Year-Old Woman with an Incorrect Operation on the Left Hand
EEOC v. UPS SUPPLY CHAIN - ASL interpreters not provided to a deaf clerk
Instead of ASL interpreters, UPS provided a deaf clerk with note takers and English dictionaries during staff meetings, disciplinary sessions and trainings. The Ninth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment for UPS, remanding the matter for trial. The case now goes back to the lower court for an expensive trial or an expensive settlement."A trier of fact could conclude that UPS refused to provide an interpreter for regular meetings that were less than two hours long because there was a two-hour minimum charge for ASL interpreter services."
Mercy Medical Center settles 2 lawsuits over availability of ASL medical interpreters
Polly Fullbright wants her husband to be remembered as a courageous man whose last hours were made even more stressful because of a Des Moines hospital’s lack of services for deaf people. J. William Fullbright, 40, of Clive was suffering an inexplicable shortness of breath when his wife rushed him to Mercy Medical Center’s emergency room on a Sunday night in 2008. He and his wife both were deaf, but the hospital did not have a sign-language interpreter available to help them communicate with doctors and nurses, Polly Fullbright said. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110927/NEWS01/309270035/0/LIFE04/?odyssey=nav|head
Keene Hospital pays $25,000 federal fine (October 2011)
Keene SentinelIn documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in Concord, Cheshire Medical Center – Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene disputed the discrimination claim and denied liability in the case, which is the second lawsuit against the hospital alleging discrimination against a deaf patient in seven years. A Keene hospital has agreed to pay a $25,000 federal fine and put in place a program to provide interpreters to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing in a settlement of a lawsuit alleging discrimination.
East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System to Ensure Effective Communication with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Patients
Family of deaf patient gets $70000 in settlement with Henry Ford Health
The Detroit News
The lack of the interpretation service denied the deaf patient effective
communication with hospital staff and the opportunity to participate in
medical treatment decisions and that it did not have adequate systems in
place to make sure deaf and hard ...
Trinity Health Systems to Pay $218K Over Failure to Provide Interpreters for the Deaf
Trinity Health Systems in Fort Dodge, Iowa, has agreed to pay $218,000 over an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide interpretation services for a deaf patient, according to a <http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/March/12-crt-404.html> DOJ news release.
The Justice Department's lawsuit, which was filed along with the settlement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, alleged that Trinity Health Systems violated the ADA by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services. This failure resulted in the patient being unable to understand medical instructions among other issues, according to the complaint.
Of the settlement, $198,000 will be paid to the aggrieved patients and $20,000 will be paid as a civil penalty. Trinity has also agreed to provide training to hospital staff on the ADA and adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and services are promptly provided to patients or companions who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the release.
NJ Doctor Settles Deaf Patient's Complaint
U.S. Attorney Program for ADA Enforcement Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative
The press release includes DOJ's most recent ADA enforcement efforts against
health care providers. I recommend forwarding this to anyone uncertain about DOJ seriousness concerning health care providers' health care compliance.
© 2013, International Medical Interpreters Association
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