U.S. Attorney’s Office: UW Medicine to provide services to hearing impaired

Jul 17, 2023, 2:05 PM | Updated: 3:15 pm

UW medicine hearing...

New signage is installed Dec. 30 at UW Medical Center – Northwest in Seattle. (Randy Carnell/UW Medicine)

(Randy Carnell/UW Medicine)

After a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, UW Medicine will be changing its policy for how it provides services and accommodations for patients with a hearing impairment.

The UW Medical Center will now be providing sign-language interpreters and other assistive devices for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing after getting a complaint from a patient that services were not provided to them in 2021.

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“Ensuring effective communication in medical settings has been a top priority in our civil rights work,” said acting U.S. Attorney Gorman in a prepared statement. “Before and after surgery, a patient must be able to understand the medical staff and communicate their level of pain, their concerns, and any questions they have about ongoing care. This settlement clearly lays out the steps for UWMC-NW to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide best practices for their patients.”

The hospital will be required to have an ADA coordinator on duty when the hospital is open to the public, alongside three interpreters. All staff will also be trained on how to best provide services to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing.

UW Medicine will also be paying the patient $40,000 in the settlement alongside the procedural changes.

The ADA mandates that public entities, including healthcare providers, provide auxiliary aids and services free of charge to patients who need them in order to communicate effectively.

An investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, determined that UW Medical failed to provide the complainant with a qualified sign language interpreter necessary to communicate effectively with her on several occasions during her hospital stay in April 2021, including pre-surgical consultation, surgery, and post-surgical care.

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The hospital did attempt to use a Video Relay Interpreter (VRI) service, but it was ineffective.

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U.S. Attorney’s Office: UW Medicine to provide services to hearing impaired