KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Covenant Health reached a settlement with the United States after a deaf Knoxville man filed a lawsuit against the hospital system and Parkwest Medical Center after he claimed he was denied an interpreter, resulting in the amputation of his leg. according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.
Scott Tomei is profoundly deaf and communicates in American Sign Language (ASL).
On Oct. 24, 2017, Tomei went to Parkwest Hospital after falling a few days earlier and injuring her right foot and leg, the documents state.
“Upon arriving at the hospital, the plaintiff requested a live ASL interpreter,” the document states. “The hospital staff refused the plaintiff’s request.”
Following Tomei’s allegations, the United States Attorney’s Office opened an internal investigation into allegations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The US Attorney’s Office commends the complainant for sharing his experience to improve health care communication for others in the deaf community. Further, we commend Covenant Health and Parkwest Medical Center for their cooperation in our investigation and work to promote effective communication with deaf individuals,” said U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “This settlement is a roadmap to success for accommodations public within East Tennessee aimed at improving the participation of deaf and other hard of hearing persons in health care decisions.”
Officials with Covenant Health agreed to a settlement with the office and a statutory penalty of $50,000.
Terms of the agreement are effective for three years and include assigning an ADA administrator to each facility to provide oversight and guidance, identifying services that can provide interpreters to each facility in a timely manner, notifying patients and their attendants for their rights under the ADA, developing an assessment plan to effectively determine the appropriate assistive aid for each situation, providing ADA training, and submitting compliance reports to the US Attorney’s Office.
Covenant Health recently entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice regarding allegations that a Covenant facility violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide an effective means of communication for a deaf patient. While Covenant Health denies that any violations have occurred, we voluntarily entered into the Settlement Agreement to demonstrate our past and future commitment to complying with the ADA. Covenant Health works hard to ensure that patients and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate effectively with health care providers, and we offer communication aids and assistance free of charge. In keeping with Covenant Health’s commitment to putting patients first, providing excellent medical care, and making Covenant Health the first and best choice for health care in the communities we serve, we welcomed this opportunity to review our processes to ensure that patients’ needs are met in all circumstances.
Other court documents showed the lawsuit was dropped after Tomei reached a settlement with the hospital system.
Officials with the attorney’s office said the settlement does not mean the hospital system was responsible for Tomei’s treatment.
“Members of the public should be reminded that the allegations resolved by this settlement are only allegations and that there has been no determination of liability,” said US Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rachelle Barnes.
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