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Kaiser Foundation Settles Lawsuit

April 13, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The nation’s largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization has settled a lawsuit accusing it of failing to provide disabled patients with accessible facilities and equipment.

The suit, filed in July and settled Thursday, had charged that Kaiser Permanente does not offer accessible examination tables, toilets, scales and other medical devices in its California hospitals and clinics.

The suit had been filed by a group called Disability Rights Advocates in Alameda County Superior Court.

In the settlement, Kaiser agreed to make its hospitals and clinics wheelchair-accessible. It also said it would acquire equipment that can be used on the disabled, and provide workers with additional health care training.

``Kaiser Permanente will become a model health care system with respect to how patients with disabilities are served,″ said Sid Wolinsky, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

He added that ``this should be a wake-up call for the health care delivery industry.″

The suit is the latest legal challenge for Oakland-based Kaiser, which last year was accused of requiring psychiatrists to prescribe medication to patients they had not seen. In December, the health care concern was accused of unlawfully requiring patients to buy double dose-sized pills they must cut in half.

Richard Pettingill, president of Kaiser’s California division, said the company and plaintiffs began meeting to address the concerns of the disabled days after the suit was filed.

``Because our common goal is to improve access to medical care for our disabled members, I am pleased Kaiser Permanente and Disability Rights Advocates can collaborate rather than litigate to benefit our disabled members,″ he said.

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