Deaf Woman Sues Hospital Over Sign Language Interpreter

South Miami Hospital is being sued by an expectant mother who says she wants changes to the medical center’s policy on dealing with deaf patients.

Cheylla Silva gave is expecting her second child and is in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. When her first child was born at South Miami Hospital, Silva said she was overwhelmed because of poor communication with the staff.

“During the whole time, I had no interpreter for any kind of service,” Silva said. “I did ask for an interpreter various times and every single time I asked, I was just dismissed.”

Silva said the hospital has provided a video relay interpreter in the past, but she wants a live certified interpreter for her high-risk pregnancy.

“The issue with the video remote interpreter is, it’s like any issues people have with their cell phones when you’re in a hospital,” said Matthew Dietz, Silva’s attorney, “sometimes, reception is just not good. And you cannot have bad reception when it comes to learning about issues regarding your health.”

In a statement, South Miami Hospital said, “Our actions are consistent with our long-standing policies that ensure we provide effective methods of communication for hearing-impaired patients to be able to understand and participate in their care.”

The hospital said it has agreed in writing to provide an interpreter for her birth and did so before the lawsuit was filed. Silva’s attorney said the lawsuit will proceed in hopes of changing the hospital’s policies to have sign language interpreters available in an emergency or critical situation for deaf patients.

“My desires, it’s not just me,” Cheylla said. “It’s for the deaf community. We really need the hospitals, really need to understand the necessity and we need to comply with the law.”

If the two sides can’t resolve the lawsuit, it will go before a local jury.

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