Just a month ago, we concluded the first medical interpretation training in Jerusalem, for around 10 staff members of the Alyn Hospital. Training graduates are currently being utilized for interpretation only sporadically, in their “spare time”, while the Alyn management prepares formal regulations for putting them into service.
But reality frequently cannot wait for regulations to be written. Following a training to municipality absorption neighborhood officers, where our model for Cultural Competence in health was presented, one of the officers approached the JICC for help. He told us about a family that immigrated to Israel from Belarus in December 2008 with a child that needs to be diagnosed and probably operated on. They were invited to Shaarei Tsedek and Alyn hospitals but the problem is that they speak only Russian. The absorption officer remembered that we work with Alyn and asked if we could assist with proper interpretation there. What seems nowadays obvious in most Western countries is still a challenge in Israel 2009 – medical interpretation is rarely available.
We could not help with Shaarei Tsedek as we do not work with them (yet…), and the family recruited a family friend to help there. However, in the Alyn hospital the check up process is six hours-long – six different professionals need to examine the child – and the family friend, who is a senior citizen, could not come for such a long time. We called Alyn and updated them about the situation.
One of the most important aspects in our model of Cultural Competence in Health is the designation of a management member of the health system to be responsible for the assimilation of the process into the hospital. This person is also the liaison between the system’s staff, the community, the patients, and us. The liaison in Alyn acted rapidly. Due to different constraints it was not taken for granted that the hospital could allocate one of the Russian-speaking graduates of the training for the whole day. But understanding that otherwise the six hours of examination will go to waste, the staff worked hard to find a solution.
Today, the family arrived to the hospital with the child and for the whole day, the Russian-speaking interpreter accompanied them from one health professional to the other. In the afternoon, we heard the feedback from all sides. The Alyn medical team thought that the interpretation was crucial and helpful. The family was most grateful and the absorption officer said that they were not only pleased with the interpretation, but also about the way the interpreter expressed her empathy and willingness to help. The whole process improved tremendously the potential for the surgery, together with the follow-up treatment instructions given to the family, will improve the medical condition of this child.
For us, this was a great example for how our systemic work with cultural competence in health can help people. We hope that soon allocating an interpreter to a patient with language proficiency needs will not be news. Just a regular procedure.