Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital faces penalty for denying sign language interpreter to patient

Its failure to provide sign language interpreters for a deaf patient and his hard of hearing family members will cost one hospital.

A patient filed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint against Henry Ford Health System for failing to provide sign language interpreters or other auxiliary aids and services for him and some of his family members. The patient said the interpreters were required for him and his family to effectively communicate with the medical staff.

The incident took place at Kingwood Hospital in Ferndale, Michigan. The complaint was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. According to investigators, Kingwood didn’t have adequate systems in place to make sure that deaf and hard of hearing patients would be able to communicate with staffers.

The hospital reached a settlement agreement with the feds, which requires it to:

  • provide training to hospital staff on the requirements of the ADA
  • 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
  • appoint a corporate ADA administrator and ADA facilitators at each of its facilities, and
  • pay $70,000 to family members who were denied effective communication.

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