Genesis HealthCare, HHS reach settlement over treatment of deaf residents

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Genesis HealthCare will enhance care for deaf individuals, including providing interpreters, as part of a recent settlement agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The case in question involved a deaf man at a Genesis skilled nursing facility in Randallstown, MD. OCR investigated claims that caregivers at the facility did not provide an interpreter for the man, who communicated with staff through written notes and gestures.

Investigators determined that the resident's care was “unnecessarily and significantly compromised” by the lack of a sign language interpreter, said OCR Director Leon Rodriguez. This poor communication hurt discussions about medication protocols and evaluation of his care, according to Rodriguez.

The agreement lays out action points that Genesis must adopt at all 400 of its skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. These include notifying deaf residents that aids and services, including interpreters, are available. If Genesis does not comply with the settlement terms, it could face penalties of $10,000 per day. The company said it is fully cooperating with HHS.

"We view this as a positive step in our ongoing commitment to quality improvement and compliance," said Genesis spokeswoman Jeanne Moore.

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