MSHA to pay $50,000 penalty, make changes as part of ADA settlement

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Mountain States Health Alliance has agreed to pay the largest government fine ever connected to ineffective communication in a hospital as part of a settlement to resolve an Americans with Disability Act claim, according to federal prosecutors.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the $50,000 penalty comes in addition to six measures the health system has pledged to implement, which are all aimed at protecting the rights of patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing.

A mother and father, both of whom are deaf, filed suit against MSHA last year, claiming Johnson City Medical Center refused to provide a sign language interpreter to them shortly before their daughter died from cancer. We first introduced you to their 21-year-old daughter in April 2015, when she wanted to watch the new Cinderella movie that was still in theaters with her dad in the hospital and MSHA arranged the viewing.

Federal prosecutors say they reached the settlement Wednesday.

“Individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired must not be denied equal access to interpretive services in medical entities such as hospitals and other medical facilities that are covered under the ADA,” U.S. Attorney Nancy S. Harr said in a statement. “I commend MSHA for cooperating in our investigation and working to promote more effective communications with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

As a result of the settlement, MSHA agreed to appoint an ADA administrator at each facility to provide oversight and guidance, identify services that can provide interpreters to each facility in a timely manner, provide notice to patients and their companions of their rights under the ADA, develop an assessment plan to effectively determine the appropriate auxiliary aid for each situation, provide annual training about the rights afforded by the ADA and MSHA’s policy to meet those requirements and submit compliance reports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for monitoring, according to federal prosecutors.

MSHA previously denied discriminating against the woman’s parents and asked a federal judge to dismiss the complaint.

“Mountain States and our legal counsel have worked with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Cantrell family to resolve certain issues related to the provision of communication services for patients and their companions who may be deaf or hard of hearing,” MSHA said in a statement. “We have identified opportunities for better service in this area, and we are pleased with the department’s recognition of our collaboration efforts. We look forward to implementing solutions (to) ensure more effective communication opportunities for all patients and their loved ones.”

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