(Transcription of original broadcast, 6PM, December 26, 2006.)

This is the KPFA evening news at 94.1 FM and KPFA.org.

A judge has found Kaiser Permanente in contempt of court for not complying with a consent decree mandating access to facilities for people with disabilities. The finding comes three years after a man who uses a wheelchair filed suit against the health care provider for not having adequate shower, restroom and other facilities. Africa Jones reports.

Africa Jones: “John Mannick went to Kaiser seeking treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. Attorney Paul Rein represents Mannick:”

Paul Rein: “He had some difficulty with his developing multiple sclerosis. He had some difficulty with his one remaining arm he was able to use, and he went to the hospital to be checked and treated for difficulty with his arm. There was no accessible toilet. No accessible shower. Nor was there one available anywhere in the hospital. And he had an absolutely miserable time for a week. The first day or two he didn’t even have a lift to be able to transfer him to his bed to his wheelchair. Afterwards, when he wanted to be washed and showered, Kaiser’s position apparently was that they gave you a sponge bath and that was it.”

Africa Jones: “Mannick sued Kaiser under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that businesses have accessible facilities. Mannick later settled the case out of court, and Kaiser signed a consent decree agreeing to make the hospital more accessible. But the court found that Kaiser had been slow to comply with the agreement.”

Paul Rein: “Kaiser actually asked the court to relieve them of the second and third accessible patient room that they’d agreed to build. The court denied that motion even though it has given them some extra time to complete and second and third room, and they still haven’t done a ramp that was supposed to be able to be used to discharge patients without them having to go into a line of traffic. I’ve been representing disabled persons for 32 years and I’ve never before had any entity ask the court to relieve it of its obligations on the grounds that it decided afterwards that was too expensive and not really important for the public interest.”

Africa Jones: “Kaiser representatives refused to be recorded for this story, but sent a statement which says ‘Kaiser Permanente has completed all work that was supposed to be completed to date as outlined in the consent decree except for an access ramp.’ But a Judge agreed with an earlier decision by a U.S. Magistrate which found Kaiser in contempt of court. Yesterday, a Judge ordered Kaiser to appear in court every four months until the work is completed. Paul Rein:”

Paul Rein: “If Kaiser carries out its agreement, it will then have 3, out of 150 patient rooms, that will be accessible. And they also agreed to build two more freestanding patient restrooms so that the patients on that floor at least can be wheeled to this stand alone restroom to use the toilet or to use the shower. So I think that it’s important that the court stood behind its own court order, and being in contempt of court simply is a sign to the public that you haven’t kept your word. And Kaiser hasn’t kept its word.”

Africa Jones: “For KPFA News, I’m Africa Jones.”