Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Habla Espanol?

The two out of five Los Angeles residents who speak Spanish at home would find it easier to buy a can of paint at Lowe's than explain to a public hospital emergency room doctor where it hurts.

The home improvement store offers foreign language interpreting in less than a minute over a special telephone line at the customer service desk. But there is only one fulltime, trained, Spanish-speaking medical interpreter in L.A.'s five public hospitals and clinics;

This is a little talked about side effect of immigration, illegal or otherwise.

“Mastering any language well enough to describe your symptoms to a doctor takes years, and the same federal government that wants immigrants to learn English and to assimilate is doing little or nothing to support either process.”

OK, but how difficult can it be to learn enough English to respond to "tell me where it hurts"?

Two decades ago, Miami paramedics defined "intoxicado" as "high on drugs" instead of "nauseous." This led to a series of emergency room miscommunications and a malpractice settlement that could amount to $71 million over the lifetime of a former high school athlete. William Ramirez was 18 and able-bodied before he collapsed; when he awakened, he was quadriplegic. More than 36 hours reportedly passed without treatment for what really ailed him -- an acute subdural hematoma and other brain injuries.

I am thinking there is more to this story.

Intoxicado does translate as intoxicated. Surely they could find SOMEONE nearby who could translate. I mean, this is Miami . . .

The 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on national origin. This requires any health care provider receiving federal funds -- practically all of them do -- to offer free interpreting to patients with limited English skills.

Don't you know there a lawyers just waiting to make a few bucks off this?

It would cost about $268 million annually to pay for professional medical interpreting in the United States,

So who is going to pay?

Two guesses . . .
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