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Deaf patients suing Intermountain Healthcare for lack of ASL interpretation

Posted at 10:38 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 00:39:21-04

LEHI, Utah — A woman who is deaf is suing Intermountain Healthcare for discrimination.

McCall Scadlock says her visits to Intermountain’s Lehi Clinic sometimes last up to three hours due to a lack of communication caused by the clinic’s failure to provide an in-person interpreter who can translate American Sign Language.

“It’s a very stressful situation when they are trying to explain to me what to do and I don’t understand,” Scadlock told FOX13 through an interpreter. “Sometimes, I would have to ask, ‘could you please repeat that? Could you please repeat that? Could you clarify what you are saying?’”

She is one of several deaf plaintiffs who claim Intermountain is not meeting the requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act.

“If the patient isn’t receiving the information they need, that places them in medical jeopardy,” said Jared Allebest, the lawyer representing Scadlock and the other plaintiffs. “Federal laws mandate that the hospital provide an interpreter.”

Scadlock says she gave the clinic two-weeks notice before her appointment last winter, to provide an in-person interpreter. Instead, she claims they provided a remote interpreter, located miles away.

“The actual square they put the interpreter in, there was a person standing there and it was so small, I couldn’t see it. The signs weren’t clear at all. The screen itself, the unit, kept breaking down,” Scadlock said.

Despite repeated requests for an in-person translator, Scadlock says the healthcare provider keeps providing a translator on a small screen, leading to communication breakdowns. She worries it could affect the quality of her medical care.

“I’m fed up,” Scadlock said. “I feel angry. I feel frustrated.”

Scadlock hopes this lawsuit will inspire changes in Intermountain’s policies which she believes don’t serve the best interests of their patients who are deaf.

“I want the hospitals to understand we need the same access as people who can hear,” Scadlock said.

Because this litigation is active, Intermountain Healthcare wasn’t able to talk about the matter on camera. They sent FOX13 this statement:

"Intermountain strives to provide the best experience for our patients and their families, and places the utmost value on patient service and safety and has specific policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with the ADA and all other applicable laws. Under these policies, when a patient or family member needs sign language interpretation and requests an in-person interpreter that preference is given primary consideration, and when an in-person interpreter is not immediately available, our employees use Video Remote Interpreting on an iPad until an in-person interpreter is available."