Although COVID-19 is affecting us all, the pandemic has posed particular challenges for individuals with disabilities, many of whom worry that they will not receive the treatment they deserve—and to which they are legally entitled—should they contract the COVID-19 virus. To help ensure equal treatment and effective communication, hospitals must allow support persons to accompany individuals with disabilities if and when they must receive in-person treatment.
The Department of Health underscored this requirement in an announcement released yesterday (May 11). That announcement sets a deadline of May 22, 2020, for hospitals to adopt visitation policies that expressly authorize support persons “to accompany to, visit, and stay in the hospital with individuals with disabilities.” Moreover, hospitals must define “support persons” to include not only individuals authorized to make decisions for the person with disabilities, but also “family members, personal care assistants, or disability service providers.” These provisions may help ensure individuals with disabilities have the support they need.
The announcement also provides guidance with respect to communications with support persons who are not present in the hospital. In particular, it requires hospitals to “adopt policies regarding communications with families and caregivers of patients with disabilities who do not have a support person at the bedside,” although it does not detail what such policies must be. Most broadly, the announcement underscores that hospitals must “establish a process for individuals with disabilities to propose other reasonable accommodations.”
The lawyers at Brown, Goldstein & Levy are monitoring these developments as part of their ongoing efforts to ensure that health care professionals provide effective communication with deaf and blind individuals, offer reasonable accommodations, and provide equal and non-discriminatory treatment. If your support person is denied access to the hospital, or if you have any questions about your right to equal medical treatment, do not hesitate to contact us.