December 2017 – Following the filing of two separate complaints from patients of the University of Vermont Medical Center, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) began a compliance review of reviewed adherence to relevant sections of the Rehabilitation Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Both complaints state that there was inadequate provision of auxiliary aids and services to effectively communicate with the medical staff and understand the treatments being prescribed. The two complainants are deaf and communicate using American Sign Language, and believe that appropriate accommodations were not provided. Following the review, OCR Director Roger Severino said that “If patients cannot communicate effectively with medical providers, their access to health care will suffer.”
The federally funded University of Vermont Medical Center has reached a three-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont (DOJ). In response to issues brought to light from the complaints and compliance review, the Medical Center will pay the complainants $20,500 in damages. To address the needs of future patients, the Medical Center will notify patients of available auxiliary aids and services, create a procedure for patients to leave feedback, provide additional training to its employees, and update policies as issues arise. During the three years of the agreement, the OCR and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to review changes being made at the Medical Center to ensure the Center is improved to acceptable standards.