The agreement is part of a settlement that resolves a lawsuit filed by the family of a deaf patient, Mary Jane Barton, against the Medford Care Center in 2012.
Barton’s family claimed Medford Care Center continually failed to accomodate a sign language interpreter for her outside of two conferences with physicians during a six-month stay in 2012.
The family claimed the center communicated with Barton through her son, written notes or via lip reading. This included discussions about her symptoms and conditions, and resulted in her being unaware of certain medical procedures that were going to be performed on her ahead of time because of the lack of adequate communication.
Division on Civil Rights Director Craig T. Sashihara said that accommodating a deaf patient’s preferred form of communication is particularly critical where conversations involving the patient’s symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are concerned.
“According to the New Jersey Division of Disabilities, there are approximately 850,000 New Jersey residents—roughly 10 percent of our population—who have varying degrees of hearing loss,” Sashihara said. ”That number includes persons who were born deaf like Ms. Barton, others who developed late-stage hearing loss, and an increasing number of teenagers and young adults. It’s a growing societal problem that unnecessarily alienates good people and adversely affects their quality of life by needlessly creating communication barriers.”
Medford Care Center agreed to formally incorporate into its disability policy a protocol for accommodating the deaf and hard of hearing with a certified sign language interpreter, and to train all its personnel regarding the policy.
“Patients who are deaf or hard of hearing must be able to comfortably, and effectively, communicate with their care givers,” Hoffman said. “This settlement is important because it ensures, going forward, that Medford Care will engage in an interactive process with deaf and hard of hearing patients, and that those whose communication needs are best served through use of a sign-language interpreter will be accommodated. Let this case serve as a reminder to other health care facilities that they have the same duty to provide effective communication under the law.”