STOCKTON: Hospitals Hire Interpreters to Bridge Cultural Barriers
Local hospitals and clinics in ethnically diverse communities such as Stockton are discovering the powerful effect that new bilingual programs and ethnically diverse staff can have on improving patient relations, the Contra Costa Times reports. In emergency situations, the multilingual abilities of doctors, nurses and paramedics have become a "lifesaving skill," allowing health workers to communicate with and calm patients. Now, hospitals are hiring interpreters to help in non-emergency cases. Kaiser Permanente in Stockton last August opened a Spanish- speaking call center for patients, and San Joaquin General Hospital employs two Southeast Asian interpreters. San Joaquin General spokesperson Ally Keller noted, "Patients are more responsive when they see someone who understands them." The hospital, where 60% of maternity-ward mothers are Latina, also has increased the number of Spanish interpreters it employs. Dennis Ferrero, senior deputy director of disease control and prevention for San Joaquin County, said, "It's not just language differences but cultural differences." Noting that some Asians, for example, distrust Western medicine and use it as a "frightening last resort," St. Joseph's Medical Center Emergency Room Manager Renee Pimentel explained, "As a culture, Asians are difficult to treat because they hide their pain." Interpreters can often help ease these tensions and bridge the gap between doctors and non-English-speaking patients (Lewis, 3/19).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.