Medical Facilities Need Translators

LOS ANGELES – Hospital patients who don’t speak English face health risks because of language barriers and the lack of available translators.

According to USA Today, U.S. Census figures from 1990 to 2000 indicate the number of residents with limited English skills grew by 7 million to 21 million, which represents 8.1 percent of the nation’s population. Despite the large number of foreign language speaking patients, 46 percent of emergency cases lacked a translator. This often has resulted in poorer care.

One of the more obvious examples of this occurred in a Florida hospital when an 18-year-old boy told doctors he was ‘intoxicado,’ which can mean ‘nauseated’ in Spanish. Doctors mistakenly treated the patient for a drug overdose before discovering he had a brain aneurysm. The mistake resulted in a malpractice lawsuit and cost the hospital $71 million.

The American Medical Association found that hiring a translator could cost anywhere from $30 to $400 per hour depending on their skills.

According to California’s Department of Managed Health Care, legislation was passed in 2003 requiring health care providers appoint interpreters to patients who need them.

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