Language Barriers In The ER - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/19/06

Language Barriers In The ER

It's estimated that fifty million Americans do not speak English which could make an emergency even more dangerous in the emergency room. That's according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It says many patients who need medical interpreters have no access to them. The journal gives the example of an Hispanic man who came into the ER and said he was "intoxicado" before he collapsed. He was treated for intoxication and ended up with severe brain damage while the intended meaning was nauseated.

"Imagine if there's a language barrier, how little could get understood, particularly if there's an untrained interpreter or no interpreter, you won't be able to accurately describe your physical ailment, you won't be able to tell anything your past medical history or drug allergies," said  Dr. Glenn Flores, of the Medical College of Wisconsin here in Lubbock.

Both UMC and Covenant provide Spanish speaking interpreters in their emergency rooms. In the example, the journal says that hospital paid seventy-one million dollars to the patient in a malpractice settlement.  

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