Some Hospitals in Alameda County Do Not Offer Professional Translation Services, Survey Finds
Only four of 13 hospitals surveyed in Alameda County employ professional interpreters, although 37% of county residents speak a language other than English at home, according to a report released Thursday by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The remaining nine hospitals use telephone interpreters, bilingual employees and patients' family members and friends to provide translation services. One hospital in the county did not respond to the survey.
The report recommended that hospitals:
- Limit the use of ad hoc interpreters and never use children to translate;
- Increase the availability of interpreters;
- Designate a translation services coordinator;
- Develop a standardized process for translation requests; and
- Provide written materials in languages other than English.
William Guertin, executive director of ACCMA, said relying on patients' friends or family to interpret can cause problems because family members might not understand medical terms, children might have to translate embarrassing conditions or family members might withhold information about a diagnosis such as cancer. Guertin said, "Communication is an essential component of quality care."
Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker said, "Health care without language access is no health care," adding, "It means life and death to patients" (De Fao, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24).