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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Pubs & Reports

Breaking the Barrier

About this Report:

For years, immigrant New Yorkers have suffered from inadequate translation and interpretation services at New York City’s public and private hospitals.  The 2000 Census reports that 47% of all New York City households speak a language other than English in the home.  One out of every four New Yorkers do not speak English.  As the City’s demographics have shifted over the years, complaints about access to health care for immigrants have intensified.

During 2001 and 2002, Spanish-speaking members and organizers from Make the Road by Walking interviewed Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to ascertain the scope of the problem.  We were dismayed to find that patients reported widespread problems.  Make the Road by Walking filed a complaint against both hospitals with the Civil Rights Division of the New York State Attorney General.  Both hospitals signed comprehensive corrective action agreements with New York State in March of 2003. 

One year later, Make the Road by Walking returned to both hospitals to interview Limited English Proficient Patients.  We sought to investigate whether or not the reforms put in place by each hospital in response to our civil rights complaints were helping limited English proficient New Yorkers to access and understand their health care at these facilities.

Breaking the Barrier summarizes the results of these interviews, and includes a brief summary of the City, State and federal laws that require language assistance services for LEP New Yorkers.