Covenant Health is paying thousands after a deaf man claims he was denied an interpreter at Parkwest

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Covenant Health has reached a settlement with the United States after a deaf Knoxville man sued the hospital system and Parkwest Medical Center after he said he was denied an interpreter, resulting in the amputation of his leg. according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.

Scott Tomei is profoundly deaf and communicates in American Sign Language (ASL).

On Oct. 24, 2017, Tomei went to Parkwest Hospital after falling a few days earlier and injuring his right leg and foot, the documents said.

“Upon arrival at the hospital, the plaintiff requested a live ASL interpreter,” the document states. “The hospital staff denied the claimant’s request.”

Following Tomei’s allegations, the United States Attorney’s Office launched an internal investigation into the allegations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The US Attorney’s Office commends the complainant for sharing his experiences to improve health care communication for others in the deaf community. Additionally, we commend Covenant Health and Parkwest Medical Center for their cooperation in our investigation and work to promote effective communication with deaf people,” said US Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “This agreement is a road map to success for public spaces 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 office and had a statutory penalty of $50,000.

Terms of the agreement are in effect for three years and include designating an ADA administrator at each facility to provide oversight and guidance, identifying services that can provide interpreters for each facility in a timely manner, providing notices to 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 US Attorney’s Office.

Covenant Health recently reached a Settlement Agreement 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 any wrongdoing, we voluntarily entered into the Settlement Agreement to demonstrate our past and future commitment to ADA compliance. Covenant Health works hard to ensure that patients and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate effectively with healthcare providers, and we offer communication tools and assistance at no charge. In keeping with Covenant Health’s promise to put patients first, provide excellent medical care, and make Covenant Health the first and best choice for health care in the communities we serve, we welcomed this opportunity to review our processes to we ensure that patients’ needs are met in every circumstance.

Other court documents show the lawsuit was dismissed after Tomei reached a settlement with the hospital system.

Prosecutors’ officials said the settlement does not mean the hospital system is responsible for Tomei’s treatment.

“Members of the public should be reminded that the claims settled in this settlement are only allegations and that there has been no determination of liability,” said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rachel Barnes.

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