Four New York City hospitals agreed to develop
language assistance programs, and name coordinators to oversee them, as part of
a settlement with New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
The AG’s office began investigating St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center and
the Medisys Health Network, which includes Flushing Hospital and Medical
Center, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Brookdale University Hospital and
Medical Center last year after immigrant rights advocates complained the
facilities had problems communicating with non English-speaking patients.
Under the new regulations, patient languages
must be noted in medical records and interpreters must be available to patients
within 10 minutes for emergency room patients, and 20 minutes for other
The New York Immigrant Coalition, which represents a number of immigrants
rights groups (including Make the Road
by Walking), claimed that patients faced lengthy delays, were treated
without proper consent and in some cases were being misdiagnosed because of a
lack of qualified translators.
For example, the coalition said that many hospitals relied on hospital staff or
in some cases, minors and even strangers, to translate for patients, but found
that on numerous occasions, their translation skills were inadequate.
The groups did a number of membership surveys and alleged that these four
hospitals had the "most consistent" number of problems, said Natalie
Williams, bureau chief of the civil rights bureau for the attorney general. She
noted that the hospitals all had "some elements of a language assistance
program," but they were inadequate.
©2006 Crain Communications Inc.