March 5, 2013
HHS reaches civil rights settlement with national senior care provider
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a settlement agreement with Genesis HealthCare (Genesis), one of the nation’s largest providers of senior care. OCR Director Leon Rodriguez today announced that Genesis is working with OCR to implement the agreement’s requirements at all Genesis facilities nationwide. Genesis operates more than 400 skilled nursing centers and assisted/senior living communities across 29 states.
This settlement follows a complaint that Genesis failed to provide a qualified interpreter to a resident at its skilled nursing facility in Randallstown, Maryland. Throughout his stay at the facility, center staff relied on written notes and gestures to communicate with the resident, even while conducting a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation with him. Moreover, by not being provided a qualified interpreter, evaluations of his care and discussions on the effects of his numerous medications and the risks caused by not following recommended treatments and prescription protocols had harmful effects on the patient’s overall health status.
“This patient’s care was unnecessarily and significantly compromised by the stark absence of interpreter services,” said Rodriguez. “My office continues its enforcement activities and work with providers, particularly large health care systems like Genesis, to make certain that compliance with nondiscrimination laws is a system wide obligation.”
OCR conducted its investigation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires that facilities take appropriate steps to ensure effective communications with individuals. OCR concluded that in order for the patient and staff to be able to communicate effectively with each other regarding treatment, a qualified sign language interpreter would have been necessary.
Under the terms of the agreement, all Genesis facilities must comply with the terms and conditions of the settlement. The agreement also requires Genesis to form an auxiliary aids and services hotline; create an advisory committee to provide guidance and direction on how to best communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing community; designate a monitor to conduct a self-assessment and obtain feedback from deaf and hard of hearing individuals and advocates and conduct outreach to promote awareness of hearing impairments and services that are available for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. In addition Genesis would be required to pay monetary penalties for noncompliance with any terms of the agreement.
The HHS Settlement Agreement can be found on the OCR website at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements.
For information about laws prohibiting discrimination, visit the OCR website at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr.