JOPLIN, Mo. – A Pittsburg man and his daughter have filed a complaint with the ADA against Joplin’s Freeman Hospital after an incident in August.
Bob McLachlan’s daughter, Shannon, has his medical power of attorney. So when he went in for a surgery at Freeman Hospital West in August, she came down from Idaho to be there. Shannon has a disability and has a service dog to help her. Bob was expecting his daughter to see him in his room after his surgery, but found out, she’d been asked to leave. “I had just come out from anesthesia, but I knew well enough that this was a public access area, and by Federal regulation, her dog is allowed in public access areas,
Shannon has had her service dog, Darby for five years, and is now an advocate for service dog education. She says until August 26th, she’d had no issues at Freeman. “I was on the third floor, and in x-ray, and in pre-op testing, and no one ever said anything, I called to make sure that there’d be no problems.”
Then, when she went to wait for her dad, a woman approached her. “The lady comes out and goes ‘actually, so you’re not allowed up here, this floor is off limits to animals’, and I said, ‘well okay, my dog is a working service dog and a medical alert dog, I am disabled according to the ADA.’”
She said she told that woman about the service dog but still was later told she had to go. “I continued my education and tried to advocate for myself, my heart rate got really high and my dog starts alerting, and she goes ‘Look, you can either leave, or I will call security and have you escorted out of the hospital, your choice.”
Local attorney Timothy Intessimone says ADA has clear rules and regulations about service animals. “You know the ADA says if I can go there without a disability then somebody with a disability has a full and absolute right to go there, so when we talk about in the medical field, of all places I would think they would be most aware of the guidelines.”
Shannon and Intessimone say they both know that there are certain areas of a hospital service animals can’t go into, but the floor her father was on, was not a restricted area. Shannon says “I’ve tried to advocate and I’ve spoken with their PR team, and tried to work through this politely only to be told that as far as they’re concerned they’re right, I’m wrong, and have a nice day, go away now.”
We reached out to Freeman who provided us this statement saying quote “Freeman Health System complies with the American’s with Disabilities Act, and recognizes the valuable role service animals play in the lives of our patients and visitors. Freeman contracts with local service animal owners to regularly provide therapeutic visits to patients in our hospital. Freeman takes any concern or complaint regarding noncompliance with the ADA very seriously, and is currently investigating this complaint.”
Bob and Shannon both say if Freeman had come out in the beginning and apologized for what they consider is an error, they wouldn’t have filed a complaint with the ADA.
This is a direct quote from that section regarding medical facilities: “Consistent with CDC guidance, it is generally appropriate to exclude a service animal from limited-access areas that employ general infection-control measures, such as operating rooms and burn units. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities: Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (June 2003), available at http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/ eic_in_HCF_03.pdf (last visited June 24, 2010). A service animal may accompany its handler to such areas as admissions and discharge offices, the emergency room, inpatient and outpatient rooms, examining and diagnostic rooms, clinics, rehabilitation therapy areas, the cafeteria and vending areas, the pharmacy, restrooms, and all other areas of the facility where healthcare personnel, patients, and visitors are permitted without taking added precautions. “