Report Cites Language Barriers in L.A. County That Affect Health Care
The majority of the residents in five of Los Angeles County's eight service planning areas speak a language other than English at home, highlighting the need for expanded medical interpreter services, according to a report issued Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The report by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles found that about one-third of Los Angeles County residents face language barriers, a situation that can raise particular concerns when it comes to accessing health care.
Forty-nine percent of the 3.9 million patient visits handled by the county Department of Health Services in 2006 involved people with limited English language skills. Spanish speakers constituted the vast majority of such patient visits, with 1.9 million visits, followed by people who speak Korean, accounting for 17,000 patient visits.
Immigrant advocates urge the county to provide more English language classes and interpretation services, but Miya Iwataki, director of diversity programs for the county Department of Health Services, said that the possibility of county budget cuts could impede efforts to expand language assistance services.
The county is hiring nine full-time medical interpreters for its four public hospitals, the first time that such staff has been dedicated to the facilities.
In addition, the county has expanded its use of a videoconferencing system that links patients and physicians to interpreters and continues to use a telephone interpretation system (Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 3/21).