The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and Kent-based Tri-Med Ambulance LLC, have reached a settlement agreement aimed at improving services for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The settlement resolves an Americans with Disabilities (ADA) complaint brought by a South King County resident regarding emergency medical transport on Sept. 7, 2020, according to a Dec. 7 U.S. Department of Justice media release. The ambulance crew had no auxiliary aids to allow communication with the patient and failed to notify the hospital that the patient needed communication services.
“When emergency medical services are involved, it is critical that a patient can communicate with caregivers,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “I am pleased Tri-Med will have new procedures and resources in place to ensure patients who are deaf or hard of hearing will have effective ways to communicate.”
Tri-Med has exclusive contracts with multiple fire departments with a fleet of over 35 ambulances that are deployed throughout the Puget Sound area, including Bellevue, Renton, Kent, Auburn, SeaTac, Burien and Tukwila, according to the Tri-Med website.
According to the settlement agreement, Tri-Med will ensure it has appropriate auxiliary aids and services on hand for use with patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. Each patient can be shown a pictograph which allows them to indicate the preferred method of communication: for example, sign language, lip reading or written communication.
Tri-Med will obtain relevant hardware and enter into contracts for video remote interpreting for each ambulance licensed for emergency response. Tri-Med also agrees to notify the destination hospital if a patient needs communication assistive devices or services, so as not to delay important care. The additional communication services must be provided without any additional charge to the patient. Tri-Med will keep a log of the use of auxiliary services and how effective communication was ensured.
Tri-Med will provide training to it its ambulance personnel regarding the use of the communication services. The training will be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to the media release. For the next three years the U.S. Attorney’s Office will review any complaints related to use of auxiliary aids for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. Each year Tri-Med will provide the U.S. Attorney’s Office with a written report regarding the use of auxiliary aids or services.
Tri-Med cooperated fully in the investigation. This settlement is not an admission of liability nor a concession that the complaint is not well founded.
The matter was resolved by Assistant United States Attorneys James Waldrop and Susan Kas.
For more information on the Civil Rights program in the Western District of Washington and on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) visit justice.gov/usao-wdwa/civil-rights.