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Peterborough hospital agrees to settlement with patient who uses sign language

Monadnock Community Hospital has agreed to pay $5,000 to a deaf patient who alleged the hospital failed to provide a sign language interpreter while she was receiving treatment in 2010.

According to U.S. Attorney John Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire, Amy Dauphinais, who is deaf and uses American Sign Language, alleged she was unable to communicate with hospital personnel because she was not provided with a sign language interpreter or any other communication aids. Dauphinais alleged she was required to use her minor daughter to interpret for her.

The announcement of the settlement states that the hospital cooperated with an investigation into Dauphinais’s complaint. Without admitting liability, the hospital agreed to establish a program to ensure that it provides effective means of communication in the future for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

“This includes the appointment of Program Administrators to answer questions and provide appropriate assistance regarding immediate access to and proper use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services required by the settlement agreement,” Kacavas’s April 4 announcement reads. “The hospital has agreed to make efforts to determine the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and to provide them with appropriate auxiliary aids and services (including qualified interpreters) in a timely fashion. Among other things, the hospital has agreed to provide training for the staff and to provide reports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding its compliance with the agreement.”

The hospital also agreed to pay $5,000 to Dauphinais.

The hospital released the following statement on Thursday:

“A settlement was reached with the U.S. Attorneys Office which represented a single claimant whose claim was based on a single visit in our Emergency Department. MCH had a strong difference of opinion on the facts of the patient visit that was the basis of the claim. There was never any question of any adverse effect on the quality of care provided to any patient and MCH cooperated throughout the case.

“MCH has always believed in and strongly affirms the need to communicate clearly and effectively with our deaf and hard of hearing patients and their families. Our actions in this case were consistent with our prior recognition of the importance of effective communication with all patients.

“The process of investigating this case and negotiating the settlement agreement has provided us an opportunity to review our processes and ensure standards of excellence continue to be met.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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