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March 11, 2003

Abbot Northwestern agrees to improve services for deaf patients

From: Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN - 11 Mar 2003

Maura Lerner

Published March 11, 2003

Abbott Northwestern Hospital of Minneapolis agreed to pay $25,000 and to provide quicker access to interpreters for the deaf as part of a settlement with a deaf woman who had filed a discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Lee Perish of Minneapolis said she waited for almost five hours for a qualified interpreter, and finally had to call one on her own, when she was in the hospital's emergency room with severe abdominal pain in November 2000. In the meantime, she and hospital staff members had to communicate in writing, sometimes on the back of their hands, said her lawyer, Rick Macpherson of the Minnesota Disability Law Center.

The hospital denied wrongdoing, but agreed to expand and improve its sign-language services, and to guarantee that qualified interpreters would arrive within two hours. "We sincerely regret Ms. Perish's experience, but her situation . . . has helped us to make our service better," said Maria Hitateguy, manager of interpreter services for Allina Hospitals & Clinics, which owns Abbott.

Last year, the Human Rights Department found "probable cause" that the hospital had violated the state Human Rights Act in Perish's case.

Under the settlement, announced Monday, Abbott will pay $20,000 to Perish and $5,000 to four organizations that provide interpreter services or advocate for the disabled.

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