Connecticut hospital settles with feds over disability discrimination allegation

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Hartford HealthCare's Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn., has settled allegations being investigated by the federal government that the hospital discriminated against a patient who is deaf, according to a news release from HHS and the Justice Department.

The settlement, announced Oct. 5, resolves allegations that Backus did not provide timely auxiliary aids and services to effectively communicate with the patient during a hospitalization in May 2015, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the release.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut said the complainant reported that Backus failed to provide an interpreter or video remote interpreting services at critical times during his hospitalization and relied on hand-written notes to communicate with physicians and staff during the inpatient stay. The patient said this occurred despite the fact he requested the interpreting services upon arrival at the hospital and received them during his emergency room stay.

Under the settlement, Backus did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to ensure the availability of auxiliary aids and services. The hospital also agreed to pay the complainant $7,500 in compensatory relief.

"Backus Hospital is committed to ensuring a welcoming, supportive experience for our patients and guests who are deaf or hard of hearing," Donna Handley, president of Hartford HealthCare East Region, Backus Hospital, said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We take this work very seriously, providing enhanced language and hearing services to communicate effectively."

Ms. Handley noted that the Backus provides free aids and services to people with disabilities, as well as free language services to individuals whose primary language is not English.

"We work tirelessly to offer the best care and communication with all patients, including those with disabilities," she said.

Read the settlement in full here.  

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