Rural Minnesota hospitals lack sign-language interpreters

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DULUTH, Minn. (AP) -- Dozens of complaints have been filed in recent years against Minnesota hospitals by deaf patients and their companions alleging they're not getting interpreter services required by law.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that many of the hospitals facing lawsuits are in rural areas of the state where there's a shortage of sign-language interpreters. Deaf patients and organizations advocating for them say the lack of interpreters makes it difficult for them to make informed health care decisions.

Attorney Heather Gilbert says dozens of complaints have been filed in recent years against hospitals, including in Owatonna, Northfield, and Fergus Falls.

Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing settled a lawsuit in mid-December and agreed to improve training for staff and implement a protocol to ensure sign-language interpreters are available.

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