October 30, 2019
HHS Office for Civil Rights Secures Corrective Action and Ensures Florida Orthopedic Practice Protects Patients with HIV from Discrimination
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) has successfully secured corrective action and resolved a complaint against the Florida Orthopaedic Institute ("Florida Orthopaedic"). The complaint alleged that Florida Orthopaedic unlawfully cancelled a surgery because of a patient's HIV positive status. After HHS OCR informed Florida Orthopaedic of the complaint and that it would be investigating the allegations, Florida Orthopaedic banned the patient from the practice and cited the patient's complaint to HHS as a basis for doing so. Retaliation for filing complaints with HHS OCR is prohibited.
Florida Orthopaedic is a comprehensive orthopedic practice that employs approximately 40 physicians working in 10 offices and 20 hospitals in the Tampa area. Florida Orthopaedic receives federal financial assistance through its participation in Medicaid and Medicare Part C; and is subject to the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (including HIV/AIDS) in health programs or activities that receive HHS funding, such as medical practices, nursing homes, and hospitals.
HHS OCR received a complaint that a Florida Orthopaedic surgeon allegedly made an offensive comment relating to the patient's HIV status and then refused to perform the patient's scheduled surgery which prompted the patient to file a complaint with HHS OCR. After informing Florida Orthopaedic of the allegations, and before HHS OCR reached any conclusion as to the merits of the claims, Florida Orthopaedic prohibited the patient from receiving further care at the practice and cited patient's complaint with HHS as a basis.
The patient informed HHS OCR of the retaliatory dismissal from the practice and on this ground HHS OCR secured several corrective actions from Florida Orthopaedic, including amending its nondiscrimination policies and revising its procedures for dismissing any patient from the practice. Florida Orthopaedic also agreed to provide staff with multiple trainings on HIV, federal non-discrimination laws, grievance procedures, and the requirement to refrain from retaliatory actions. Before Florida Orthopaedic completed its compliance activities, it provided the complainant with referrals to three orthopedic surgeons in the area to prevent further delays in the patient's health care.
"Patients with HIV have the right to nondiscriminatory health care which includes the right to file complaints with OCR without fear of retaliation," said HHS OCR Director Roger Severino. This case is representative of HHS OCR's continuing compliance work and commitment to the full implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the President's Initiative, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America.
For additional information on HHS OCR's work on HIV/AIDS issues, visit: www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/hiv
To learn more about civil rights and health information privacy laws that HHS OCR enforces, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at www.hhs.gov/ocr.
Follow HHS OCR on Twitter at twitter.com/HHSOCR.