En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Your Nabe
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Speaking the Same Language – Advocacy Group Lauds Wyckoff Hospital’s Translation Services

Wyckoff Heights Medical Center
earned high marks from
Make the Road New York this month in a comprehensive
report showing that the availability of language assistance is improving
throughout New York City
hospitals.

“Translation
and interpretation services help people stay healthy whether you are in a
pharmacy, clinic, or hospital setting,” said
Theo Oshiro, a health advocate with Make the Road New York. “Things are improving
significantly at city hospitals with more interpreters and speedy services. We
have seen huge improvements at Wyckoff
hospital since we first started monitoring the quality of their language access
services in 2002.”

Make the Road members, assisted by the Korean
Community Services and the New York Immigration Coalition, surveyed over six
hundred limited English proficient (LEP) patients in public and private
hospitals in the city and found that 64 percent received assistance in their
native language, compared with 29 percent before 2006. In the Make the Road
Study, 70 percent of patients said they talked to Wyckoff Hospital
staff in Spanish at their last appointment. Fifty percent of patients reported
communicating with bilingual hospital staff, twenty percent said they
communicated through an interpreter provided by the hospital, 26 percent said
they communicated through a telephonic device, and 30 percent said they relied
on a family member or friend for interpretation. Thirty-four percent of patient
respondents said they knew that the hospital provided free translation
services.

“Our
biggest challenge is letting the patient know the services are here so they can
take advantage of them,” said Kathleen Kernizan, director of Public Affairs at Wyckoff Hospital. “They don’t have to pay for an
interpreter, wait for a long time or bring a family member to receive
interpretation services.”

Wyckoff Heights
Medical Center
instituted a translation services
program in February 2003 following a
MRNY survey concerning language
services and complaint filed with the State Attorney General’s Office of Civil
Rights regarding the violation of patient rights. Wyckoff Hospital
was one of the first sites
Make the Road approached.

“We didn’t
have guidelines per se, so we got a list of volunteer interpreters and had the
language line in place,” said Lizette Hernandez, Language Assistant Coordinator
at Wyckoff Hospital. “It was just a matter of
getting the list of interpreters out and tying together administrative fronts.”

Wyckoff hired two full-time administrators
to coordinate language services identified 30 staff members for updated and
extensive training in medical terminology in Spanish, Polish, Italian, Romanian
and American Sign Language. A new director of Patient Relations was hired in
January this year to further improve patient services, particularly reducing
wait times in the emergency room, adding signage in multiple languages in the
hospital’s corridors, and expanding one on one bilingual counseling during a
patient’s hospital stay.

“Relatives
would have to take days off from school to help translate,” said Joann Purcell,
director of Patient Relations at Wyckoff
Hospital
. “Now, with the
retraining of staff, the number of relatives coming in are going down.”

According
to Wyckoff staff members,
Make the Road
has helped the hospital provide feedback during its reorganization of patient
services, particularly reports that show what services are provided in other
hospitals and what services Wyckoff
has that other hospitals do not. Kernizan noted that few hospitals provide
services for Korean-Americans or Haitian Creole-Americans in their native
languages.

Make the Road members are pleased that Wyckoff has been able to
help patients better community with their doctors over care and receive
counseling from bilingual staff members during their stay, which will help
patients open up more about their medical ailments and receive the proper
treatment.

“While
there is still room for improvement at Wyckoff,
the hospital deserves credit for the significant improvements that they have
made to ensure access to limited English proficient patients,”
Oshiro
said.