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 alleged he was denied an interpreter, which it led to the amputation of his leg. , according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.
Scott Tomei is profoundly deaf and communicates using American Sign Language (ASL).
On Oct. 24, 2017, Tomei went to Parkwest Hospital after falling a few days earlier and injuring her right leg and foot, according to the documents.
“Upon his arrival 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 whistleblower for sharing his expertise to improve health communication for others in the deaf community. Additionally, we commend Covenant Health and Parkwest Medical Center for cooperating in our research and working to promote effective communication with deaf people,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “This settlement is a road map for to the success of public accommodations in East Tennessee that aim to improve the participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in health care decisions.”
Covenant Health officials agreed to a settlement with the bureau and had a statutory penalty of $50,000.
The terms of the agreement are effective for three years and include the designation of an ADA administrator at each facility to provide oversight and guidance, identify services that can provide interpreters at each facility in a timely manner, notify patients and their attendants of 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 office of the US Attorney.
Covenant Health recently entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice related to allegations that a Covenant facility violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide an effective means of communication for a deaf patient. Although Covenant Health denies that any violations have occurred, we voluntarily signed the Settlement Agreement to demonstrate our past and future commitment to comply with the ADA. Covenant Health works hard to ensure that deaf or hard of hearing patients and their companions can communicate effectively with health care providers, and we offer communication aids and assistance at no 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 gave welcome this opportunity to review our processes to ensure that patients’ needs are met in every circumstance.
Other court documents showed the lawsuit was dismissed after Tomei reached a settlement with the hospital system.
Law enforcement officials said the settlement does not mean the hospital system was liable for Tomei’s treatment.
“The public should be reminded that the claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability,” said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rachelle Barnes.
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