Oklahoma nursing facility enters resolution agreement with OCR over alleged HIV discrimination

McAlester, Okla.-based Heritage Hills Living & Rehabilitation Center entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with HHS' Office for Civil Rights to resolve allegations the facility discharged a seriously ill patient upon learning she was HIV positive.

Heritage Hills, an 81-bed for-profit skilled nursing facility, receives federal financial assistance through its participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The complainant, the patient's parent, alleged Heritage Hills violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 1557 of the ACA, both of which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in health programs that receive HHS funding.

Heritage Hills agreed to resolve the complaint after OCR initiated an investigation into whether Heritage Hills discriminated against the patient on the basis of her disability, namely HIV/AIDS. Under the resolution agreement, Heritage Hills will ensure compliance with Section 504 and Section 1557, appoint a civil rights coordinator and publish an updated non-discrimination policy, among other requirements.

The resolution agreement also specifies Heritage Hills must report admissions and discharge data to OCR for a 12-month period and must require staff to undergo training on HIV/AIDS and federal non-discrimination obligations.

"It is heart-wrenching to see a seriously ill person ejected from a federally-funded medical facility simply because they were HIV positive," said OCR Director Roger Severino. "Such conduct is not only tragic, it is illegal, and as our investigation and resolution of this complaint demonstrates, OCR is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities — including those with HIV/AIDS — are afforded equal access to healthcare."

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review reached out to Heritage Hills Living & Rehabilitation Center for comment and will update as more information becomes available.

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