The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has reached a settlement agreement with Floyd Medical Center (Floyd), a system of health care providers located in Rome, Georgia, to resolve an investigation into allegations that it violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“When a deaf patient or caregiver is unable to understand what is happening during a medical visit or procedure, it can be a terrifying experience and adversely affect the quality of care,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “Deaf or hard of hearing citizens deserve the same opportunities to participate in medical decisions as every other citizen.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation after receiving three complaints alleging that Floyd failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication. The complainants, who are deaf or hard of hearing and rely on American Sign Language as their primary means of communication, were either patients or the primary caregivers of patients at Floyd. One claimant alleged that she endured a complicated labor and delivery by C-section without any effective communication before or during this procedure. Another complainant, who was the primary caregiver for her elderly father, alleged that she was denied effective communication and therefore unable to fully participate in or understand the medical decision-making regarding his terminal illness or discharge to home hospice care.
Under the settlement agreement, Floyd agreed to ensure effective communication to patients who are deaf and hard of hearing. In the future, Floyd agreed to give primary consideration to the expressed preference for a particular auxiliary aid or service by an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing. Among other things, Floyd has agreed to provide mandatory in-service training to all its personnel and provide reports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding its compliance with the settlement agreement. The training will address the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and companions. Floyd also agreed to pay $75,000 to the complainants.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by health care professionals. Under the ADA, health care providers are required to provide effective communication to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. When complex, lengthy communication is involved, the ADA generally requires health care professionals to provide qualified sign language interpreters for the person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
This agreement is part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which is a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the nation, to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities. The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of more than 40 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. Information about the initiative can be found at www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aileen Bell-Hughes and Emily Shingler are representing the United States in this matter.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at [email protected] links icon or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.