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South Florida Hospital Fined Following Deaf Patient's Lawsuit

A deaf woman says she had a terrifying experience at a South Florida hospital and took legal action

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Not being able to hear hasn’t stopped Rose Adams from doing what she loves: teaching.

She was teaching at a Palm Beach County high school when her health took a turn.

“I looked sick. My daughter told me,” Rose said.

Doctors determined Rose had a problem with her red blood cells that made her exhausted with problems breathing. 

She picked the Cleveland Clinic to help her. Three years ago, she said she arrived at the Weston medical facility thinking it was just for an initial blood test. 

“I didn’t have my hearing aid on. I didn’t have my reading glasses. I didn’t have my charger for my cellphone. I wasn’t prepared to stay overnight,” she said. 

The NBC 6 Investigators hired an interpreter to conduct an exclusive interview with Rose.

Rose said she stayed for what she described as frightening six days at the Cleveland Clinic with no idea what was being said because they didn’t provide a sign language interpreter, even though she said she repeatedly asked for one. 

“Many times, many times. The second day, I was screaming, screaming. I wanted to go home. I don’t want to be there,” she told NBC 6. “They were giving me drugs that I was allergic to. They gave me the drugs. They were doing all the testing. I didn’t know what they were doing.”

After four decades in education working in traditional classrooms, Rose said it was a humiliating time in the hospital. 

“I felt like a dog—more like a rat—a dog. You don’t talk to a dog. That’s what I felt like. I was told to be quiet. You’re bothering the other patients,” she said. 

Rose sued the Cleveland Clinic in federal court in the Southern District of Florida claiming it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The lawsuit says on day three the hospital tried a video hook up with an interpreter, but Rose said that didn’t work. On day four, an interpreter arrived, but the doctors in charge of her treatment weren’t around, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit claims no interpreter was there on her last two days at the clinic.

“My condition got worse. I didn’t get better. I got worse. I was thinking the Cleveland Clinic was supposed to be the number one hospital for my condition, but they did nothing for me,” Rose said.

“This type of insensitivity occurs all the time for people that are deaf," said her attorney, Matthew Dietz.

More than a year ago, Dietz reached an agreement with the hospital to avoid a trial.

“We agreed upon a policy that interpreters would be provided upon request. However, if you don’t train people to that policy, it’s not going to get implemented,” he told NBC 6.

Recently, Federal Court Judge Rodolfo Ruiz ruled the Cleveland Clinic would be fined until they do the training.

He held the Cleveland Clinic in contempt for not getting the provisions of the agreement to help the deaf implemented writing “… the Court finds it impossible that a health system entrusted with the care of millions … and with revenues exceeding $10 billion a year, is incapable of showing its employees a 15 minute video to help ensure that deaf patients are treated equitably…”

The judge stated Cleveland Clinic would be fined $1,000 a day until it complies with the order.

“It was actually really a relief to get some action from the court,” Dietz said.  

In a statement, the Cleveland Clinic said, “We are currently reviewing all aspects of this case and working with new legal counsel to determine what additional steps need to be taken to ensure we are fully compliant with the court's order. We are committed to ensuring that all patients have access to compassionate, high-quality care.”

Court records show the clinic recently complied with the judge’s order and implemented changes to treat deaf patients. The hospital paid about $15,000 in fines.

The notice of compliance cites “a new training module that incorporated the changes that had been agreed to with Plaintiff’s counsel and further incorporated new slides based on research and consultation with training experts at The Cleveland Clinic main campus in Cleveland, Ohio.”

NBC 6 reached out to the clinic again to seek comment about this development and the fines. But a spokesperson declined to comment referring us to the court records.

As for Rose, she switched to another medical facility and is feeling better.

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