As of Friday, January 26, 2018
SUNNYSIDE Because of its willingness to do the right thing, a complaint brought against Astria Health by the U.S. government last year has been settled with the health care organization, agreeing to remedies.
There was no punishment meted out by the Feds.
The complaint was about violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An Astria patient who asked for a Tactile American Sign Language interpreter for five different appointments early last year did not get one.
Astria Health, known formerly as Regional Health, is the parent company of Astria Sunnyside Hospital and 34 other medical facilities in the Eastern District of Washington.
The Eastern District of Washington U.S. Attorney’s office, which is now in the charge of U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington, investigated the patient’s complaint.
Harrington said the disabilities law requires medical providers to ensure that communications with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing are as good as those with other patients. That includes auxiliary aids or services.
“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 visit,” Harrington said.
In addition, Astria agreed to take remedial steps to ensure compliance with the disabilities act at each of its 34 hospitals and clinics.
Harrington noted his office did not seek civil penalties, which could have been more than $89,000 for the first violation and $178,000 for each of the rest.
“Astria promptly acknowledged a problem, took immediate corrective action at its offending clinic,” Harrington said.
A grateful Dawn O’Polka, chief marketing and communication officer for Astria Health, reacted to the news with a written statement.
“Astria Health deeply values the Department of Justice’s willingness to partner with us through this process,” she said.
“We especially appreciate the DOJ’s insights and willingness to help us to identify the ADA issues we need to address and suggestions for necessary improvements.”