Medical Practice Sued for Discriminatory Policy That Jeopardizes Patients with Disabilities
August 13, 2020 – Louisville, KY – Yesterday, following the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Disability Rights Advocates filed a putative class action lawsuit against First Urology, challenging the medical practice’s illegal policy of refusing to help patients with disabilities transfer from wheelchairs or other mobility devices to examination tables and diagnostic equipment, in violation of the ADA and other disability rights laws. First Urology is a full-service urological medical and imaging practice with roughly twenty locations in Kentucky and Indiana. Click here to read the complaint.
First Urology is required by law to supply proper equipment and train its staff to provide equal access to medical services to people with disabilities, ensuring that patients with disabilities can receive the same diagnostic and medical procedures as any other patient. Instead, First Urology has a written policy stating that it will not provide services to patients who cannot independently transfer from wheelchairs and other mobility devices to examination tables or other diagnostic equipment unless the patients bring their own assistive devices, and a friend, family member, or attendant to help them transfer. First Urology’s policy creates barriers to health care, hinders independence, and interferes with the privacy of patients with disabilities.
Despite the ADA, patients with disabilities continue to face pervasive discrimination in access to health care, leading to poorer health outcomes. It is well-documented that patients with all types of disabilities experience significant disparities in the standard of care received from health providers. This frequently results in unmet medical needs, placing patients with disabilities at greater risk for secondary conditions, longer-term health problems, and even death. Refusal to examine or treat a patient on an examination or imaging table is a recurring barrier to providing proper and comprehensive care to patients with disabilities.
Plaintiffs Elizabeth Fust, David Allgood, and Marcus Gray have spinal cord injuries and use wheelchairs for mobility. Plaintiff Center for Accessible Living supports and advocates for the independence of people with disabilities throughout the state of Kentucky, including patients of First Urology. First Urology offers a wide range of diagnostic imaging services to patients without disabilities, but refused to serve Ms. Fust at any of its twenty locations and told her she had to seek diagnostic imaging services at a hospital because it will not help her transfer to a table for the imaging. Mr. Allgood and Mr. Gray have had to bring family members to their First Urology appointments to help them transfer, which is inconvenient and violative of their privacy.
First Urology failed to correct its unlawful policy even after receiving three letters from Ms. Fust and her attorney, asking for the policy to be changed. This is why the ADA and other disability laws are so important– sometimes it takes a judge to tell even a state-of-the-art medical practice to stop discriminating.
Ms. Fust points out, “We know that people with disabilities utilize healthcare at much higher rates than non-disabled people, experience a higher prevalence of secondary health conditions, and experience more problems accessing care than non-disabled people. As a person with a spinal cord injury, this has certainly been my experience. That’s why it is so important to me to insist that healthcare providers live up to the requirements of the ADA, which has been on the books for 30 years.”
“First Urology’s discriminatory policy negatively affects people with mobility disabilities throughout the area,” according to Susan Tharpe, CEO of the Center for Accessible Living. “CAL is proud to fight on behalf of these members of the community that we serve.”
“First Urology sells itself as a full-service medical practice; yet, it’s clearly not full-service for people with disabilities,” said Rebecca Sobie, a Senior Staff Attorney with Disability Rights Advocates. “Unfortunately, exclusion from medical care access is rampant. This disparate treatment causes embarrassment, humiliation and inconvenience, when equal access is not something that patients with disabilities should have to worry about.”
First Urology’s ongoing practice of systemic discrimination strips patients with disabilities of their rights under laws including Title III of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to require First Urology to purchase and provide accessible medical equipment, and seeks an order requiring First Urology to institute policies, procedures, and training appropriate to the provision of medical care to patients with mobility disabilities.
About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit dralegal.org.