Family Reaches Settlement With Fairview Range Over Lack of Sign Language Interpreter

Ryan Raiche, KSTP-TV
December 22, 2017 10:46 PM

A family has reached a settlement with Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing over claims it failed to provide a sign language interpreter to relay critical medical information to a deaf family member.

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Matthew Svatos, who is deaf, originally filed the discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2013, following the birth of his daughter.

The hospital provided an interpreter during the child’s birth. But that person left after the baby was born, according to the family’s account.

Doctors came into the room hours later with unsettling news about the baby’s health.

“I did not understand everything,” said Matthew through an interpreter. “It was really not fair that I could not understand or know about my daughter's health problems. And it is because they did not explain it to me, not anything. Nothing at all.”

Since an interpreter was not available, they asked Matthew’s wife Julie to fill him in using sign language.

“My partner did not know what was going on and my hands were full,” Julie said. “You know, literally, my hands were tied at the moment.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the hospital broke not only the law, but its own policy.

The policy reads “family members, friends, or other untrained individuals should not be used as interpreters” for accuracy reasons.

The family eventually sued the hospital. Four years after the original complaint, a confidential settlement was reached.

“Reaching the settlement is a step in the right direction for us," Julie said. "Holding these facilities, and specifically Fairview in this case – holding them accountable to the standards that have been set by law."

Matthew and Julie’s baby girl was born deaf, which was a surprise since there were no signs it was genetic.

Otherwise, though, she is a healthy.

As part of the settlement, the hospital agreed to provide additional training to staff when it comes to what to do if an interpreter is not readily available.

They also agreed to set up a system to process complaints.

Fairview Range Medical Center has not returned KSTP-TV's calls requesting comment on the matter.


Ryan Raiche, KSTP-TV

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