Observers: Calif. Health Facilities Often Lack Interpreter Services
Limited access to interpreter services at health care facilities is a persistent problem in California, especially for indigenous Mexican immigrants, according to health care advocates and providers, HealthyCal reports.
Although California has laws designed to ensure adequate health care services for individuals who are not fluent in English, many patients who speak limited English do notÂ have access to interpreters to facilitate meaningful communication with health care providers.
The problem significantly affects indigenous Mexican immigrants who are farmworkers in areas like the Central Coast region from Oxnard to Watsonville.
Sometimes, such patients rely on the interpretation skills of family members or someone they know, which experts say is risky and raises ethical issues.
Health Care Advocates, Providers Discuss Problem
Victor Sosa -- the language access coordinator at Natividad Medical Center -- said, "My perception is a great majority of organizations don't provide effective communication," adding, "Many times, the problem is they perceive that language access is an added cost, and they don't want that burden."
Ellen Wu -- executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network -- said that even though California has laws that ensure the availability of interpreters, "consumers don't necessarily know about them -- that they have the right to ask for them."
Wu added, "No one's monitoring whether [the laws are] being complied with, and providers aren't alwaysÂ prioritizing this."
Growing Awareness of Issue
However, Jeanette Anders -- who manages the health care market for Language Line, a language service provider -- said that there is a growing awareness among California hospital leaders of the importance ofÂ meeting the needs of patients who are not fluent in English.According to Anders, studies have found that investments in interpreter services have produced cost savings by reducing unnecessary laboratory test orders and helping ensure that patient discharge instructions are in the correct language (Moser, HealthyCal, 1/8). 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.