U.S. Attorney's Office and HHS Office for Civil Rights Settle Disability Discrimination Case with Backus Hospital

2 weeks ago

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut (DOJ), entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with Backus Hospital, to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Agreement resolves a complaint filed with DOJ on behalf of an individual who is deaf, alleging that Backus Hospital failed to provide timely auxiliary aids and services to effectively communicate with the patient during an inpatient stay at Backus Hospital in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the complaint, despite requesting services upon arrival and receiving them during his emergency room stay, the complainant was not provided an interpreter or video remote interpreting services at critical points of care during his inpatient stay and relied on hand-written notes to communicate with doctors and staff during the hospital visit.

In partnership with DOJ, OCR conducted an investigation of the complaint allegations and a review of Backus Hospital’s policies and procedures for effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to determine compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Section 1557). Collectively, these Federal civil rights laws prohibit any entity that receives Federal financial assistance from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities, and requires an entity to take steps to ensure communication with individuals with disabilities is as effective as communication with others through the use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services. 

As a result of the joint investigation, Backus Hospital voluntarily entered this Agreement and affirmed its assurance of compliance with Section 504, Section 1557, and Title III of the ADA. Under this Agreement, Backus Hospital agreed to take steps to ensure the availability of auxiliary aids and services, and to monitor such steps. Additionally, Backus Hospital has agreed to $7,500 in compensatory relief for the complainant under the ADA.

"Health care providers have a responsibility to provide effective communication, which is a key component to ensuring patients receive quality care,” said OCR Director Lisa Pino. “This agreement sends an important message about the importance of eliminating unnecessary barriers to equal treatment for those who are deaf or hard of hearing."

Our Office is committed to protecting the rights of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and ensuring that all persons are able to effectively communicate with health care professionals,” stated the District of Connecticut’s Acting U.S. Attorney Leonard Boyle.

To read the full Voluntary Resolution Agreement text, please visit: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/compliance-enforcement/agreements/vra-between-doj-hhs-ocr-william-backus-hospital/index.html.