Updated Jan. 22, 2018 at 2:56 p.m.
Astria Health, the hospital organization that Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s board of commissioners is in talks with about a possible merger or affiliation, has reportedly settled a discrimination lawsuit today (Friday, Jan. 19).
Joseph H. Harrington, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a settlement agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been reached between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Astria, formerly known as Regional Health.
Astria, is the parent company of Sunnyside Community Hospital and other clinics in central Washington. Astria operates 34 hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities in the eastern district of Washington.
The U.S. Attorney Office began an ADA-based investigation of Astria Health after receiving a complaint that, despite a request for a Tactile American Sign Language interpreter, one of Astria Health’s clinics failed on five separate treatment occasions to provide a deaf-blind individual with a qualified interpreter. The deaf- blind individual alleged that, for approximately four months, he did not receive care because he was unable to communicate effectively with his treatment providers concerning his chronic health condition, which condition could result in potentially life-threatening complications if not properly managed.
Astria Health fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation and within days of being notified of the investigation initiated corrective action to ensure the deaf- blind individual involved received a qualified interpreter at his next healthcare visit.
Under the settlement, Astria agreed to take remedial steps to ensure compliance with the ADA at each of its 34 hospitals and clinics in central Washington. These steps include the appointment of an ADA point person who is familiar with the ADA’s health care access and communication – interpreter requirements. This coordinator will also provide training to Astria’s staff on ADA requirements and will enter into contracts with interpretive service providers. Astria will also adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and communication services are provided promptly to individuals who are deaf, blind, or have communication challenges.
CEO of Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Tom Parker said the settlement “has no direct impact on our discussions,” regarding the possibility of an affiliation. He also said that Snoqualmie Valley Hospital accommodates their language and disability interpretation needs through the translating language service Stratus Video, an organization that provides interpreters to hospitals and clinics.