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

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — Covenant Health reached a settlement with the United States after a deaf Knoxville man filed a lawsuit against the hospital system and Parkwest Medical Center after claiming he was denied an interpreter, leading to 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 October 24, 2017, Tomei went to Parkwest Hospital after falling a few days earlier and injuring his right leg and foot, the documents said.

“On arrival at the hospital, the plaintiff requested a live ASL interpreter,” the document said. “Hospital staff denied the plaintiff’s request.”

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

“The US Attorney’s Office commends the Complainant for sharing his experiences in improving health communications for others in the deaf community. In addition, we commend Covenant Health and Parkwest Medical Center for their collaboration in our investigation and for their work to promote effective communication with the deaf,” said US Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “This agreement is a roadmap for the success of public accommodations in East Tennessee aimed at increasing the participation of the deaf and others with hearing disabilities in healthcare decisions.”

Covenant Health officials agreed to a settlement with the bureau and had to pay a $50,000 statutory penalty.

The terms of the settlement are for three years and include designating an ADA administrator at each facility to provide oversight and guidance, identifying services that each facility can provide interpreters in a timely manner, notifying patients and their companions of their Rights under the ADA, developing an assessment plan to effectively determine the appropriate tools for each situation, providing ADA training, and submitting compliance reports to the US Attorney’s Office.

Covenant Health recently entered into 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 to a deaf patient. While Covenant Health denies any violation, we voluntarily entered into the Settlement Agreement to demonstrate our past and future commitment to ADA compliance. Covenant Health works hard to ensure patients and their companions who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate effectively with healthcare providers, and we offer free communication tools and support. Consistent with Covenant Health’s promise to put patients first, provide excellence in medical care, and make Covenant Health the first and best choice for healthcare in the communities in which we operate, we welcomed this opportunity to reviewing our processes to ensure patient needs are met throughout the circumstance.

Other court documents showed the lawsuit was dismissed after Tomei reached an agreement with the hospital system.

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

“The public should be reminded that the claims addressed by this agreement are allegations only and no liability has been determined,” said US Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rachelle Barnes.

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