Keene med center settles 2nd deaf discrimination suit

Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, charged with discriminating against a deaf patient for the second time in seven years, has agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to the federal government and to insure that services are provided to deaf patients when needed.The hospital also reached a settlement with the patient involved — Laura Waldren, as well as her mother Jeanne Waldren — that was not disclosed in federal court.The hospital could not be reached for comment by NHBR deadline, but in the consent degree, “it expressly disputes that it discriminated against Laura Waldren or Jeanne Waldren, and expressly denies liability.”According to the filings presented to the court on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Concord by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cheshire Medical Center, the Keene Health Alliance and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic — did not provide Laura Waldren with a sign language interpreter on three different occasions in October 2009, despite requests in advance that one be provided.Instead, according to the suit, the hospital relied on faulty video interpretation, written notes and on Laura’s mother Jeanne, even though on some occasions Waldren had to take care of Laura’s 9-year-old daughter, requiring the daughter to be present during sensitive medical discussions.Laura Waldren did not fully understand the procedures she was being asked to consent to, the suit said. At one point – when she attempted to refuse the procedure – a medical specialist continued with it anyway, according to the suit.On another occasion, after a doctor recommended day surgery, doctors tried to use a large medical book to explain the problem and treatment. Waldren’s mother didn’t understand the problem, and “it was stressful for her to be in this position,” according to the filings.Waldren’s mother was not there when Laura was asked to sign various consent forms before the operation, the suit also said.This is not the first time Cheshire Medical Center has been sued for ineffective communications with a deaf patient, according to the suit.In 2005, Cheshire Medical signed a settlement agreement with an unidentified plaintiff and the Disability Rights Center requiring it to establish various procedures so it would be able to better serve its deaf patients. (There is no record of such a suit in federal court, but it could have been filed in state court.)The 51-page consent decree spells out in detail the services Cheshire Medical and its clinics must provide in the future, including a list of local deaf interpreters on file and a complete and detailed log for requests for such interpreters with the goal of being able to provide one no longer than an hour in advance 80 percent of the time.The consent degree also calls for extensive training and for the hospital to publicize its services though advertising as well as other means.The U.S. Attorney has sued at least five other New Hampshire hospitals over the violation of the rights of deaf patients since 2008.At the end of November 2010, Portsmouth Hospital agreed to pay $80,000, with $60,000 going to the patients and $20,000 fine to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the first such fine levied by federal prosecutors.The other four hospital payments all went to compensate the victims: Concord Hospital ($100,000), Frisbee Memorial in Rochester ($35,000); St. Joseph’s in Nashua ($10,000 in debt forgiveness) and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Nashua, ($5,000). — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

Categories: News