Farm Worker Advocates Launch Statewide Campaign To Improve Interpretive Services at Hospitals
Farm worker advocates have launched a statewide campaign to improve interpreter services at hospitals and other health care facilities for patients who are not fluent in English or Spanish, the Los Angeles Times reports. Lawyers from California Rural Legal Assistance say that hospitals and medical clinics "too often" deny patients with limited English speaking ability equal access to health care by failing to provide adequate interpretive services, as required by state and federal law, the Times reports. The campaign, which also includes Ventura County Public Health and the Mixteco-Indigena Community Organizing Project, aims to remind health care providers of their legal obligations and to inform the growing number of immigrants who speak Southeast Asian and indigenous Indian languages of their rights to services. "We are trying to make sure our clients' right aren't existing just on paper," Jack Daniel, a director of litigation for CRLA, said. However, health care providers deny claims that they are "failing to do enough," to provide interpretive services, the Times reports. Officials at the California Healthcare Association, which represents 500 hospitals and medical facilities statewide, say they believe "most health care providers are doing all they can to provide language assistance" despite budget constraints, which remain a "primary concern for health care providers when it comes to providing or expanding interpretive services," according to the Times.
Much of the lawyers' recent efforts have gone into administrative complaints filed last week against Ventura County Medical Center and St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. According to the complaints, earlier this year an immigrant from Mexico who communicates almost exclusively in Mixteco Bajo was not provided with adequate interpretive services when she was treated at the two hospitals. Jeffrey Ponting, a CRLA lawyer who represents the patient, says that although he "does not allege that a lack of interpretive services exacerbated" the patient's condition, the hospitals had "no business" using the patient's boyfriend, who speaks no English and limited Spanish, for interpretation, the Times reports. The hospitals refused to speak directly about the case, citing patient confidentiality, but a county hospital official said he was "unaware of any patient who had failed to receive proper care because of a language barrier." Meanwhile, a letter from St. John owner Catholic Healthcare West said the patient "received ample language assistance," the Times reports. In addition, CRLA lawyers have taken legal action against a Fresno County hospital that reportedly failed to provide adequate language assistance to patients who spoke limited English (Alvarez, Los Angeles Times, 10/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.