Lack of Language Access in Hospitals during the Coronavirus Crisis

I may be hammering on this subject a bit, but I do find it important because not only is the pandemic still raging with no end in sight, but also because it is revealing the inadequate care LEP patients are receiving in hospitals.  There is a disproportionate rise infections in black and brown communities and how many are falling victim to the coronavirus.

This disparity within the Latino communities is largely attributed to language access, accessible information in their native language, and access to healthcare in general.  Language access is particularly lacking in most hospitals in normal times much less in this new normal.  Communication barriers between patient and doctor  is a  subject I discussed on an earlier post, but  still needs discussion because the pandemic is not over and the need  for interpreters  is still great nationwide.  The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and the mortality rate among Latinos is primarily their lack to proper healthcare and language access is a contributing factor.  The inability to communicate effectively with the doctor is a major factor when they are treating you in a life and death situation and the time it takes them to get a remote interpreter on the phone or on video, it is wasted time spent on the patient.  Additionally, the noisy background of ER rooms, and ventilator noises and muzzled voices through surgical masks, makes just adds stress to both.  When doctor have life or death decisions it is simply difficult and the language barrier just makes it worse.

As I discussed on my earlier post, the need is there, there are interpreters willing to do the job, but the lack of accessible equipment, and the hospitals need to reduce costs, and the contagious nature of this disease, interpreters are either left to work at a reduced pay as a remote interpreter or as video conference interpreter or not at all.  This type of remote interpreting although better than nothing, does not   not allow them to stay in the patient’s bedside where a patient’s body language and other nonverbal cues help in the communication between t doctor and patient.  An in-house interpreter does improve by la large margin the care the patient receives in the hospital or doctor’s office.

Remote interpreting then is at a great disadvantage to the patient because they are the language conduit that would and does on normal occasions; improve by a large margin the care the patient receives in the hospital or doctor’s office.  The language barrier is a big problem in helping these patients get the care they need.

On the other hand, written time sensitive information that can inform the people on the current state of the pandemic is only found in English.  This leaves immigrant and other communities that are limited in English left out.  Although there are, organizations that is dedicated in providing translated material for them and provides language access, these are very small organizations with limited funding and resources and despite that, these are few and far between to get the help most need.

There is no easy solution particularly in a time when immigration, Immigrants or any immigrant help and language access is not at all a priority and sadly, these are the communities that have more to lose with this virus.


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