Patients need a voice
Hospitals should look to introduce medical chaperones for patients from ethnic backgrounds, an academic says.
AUT translation and interpreting senior lecturer Ineke Crezee is looking to the successful "patient navigator" system in the US to improve health support for ethnic communities within Auckland.
Patient navigators are interpreters who have a strong medical knowledge and the authority to intervene where existing interpreters cannot.
Dr Crezee says their job is to bridge communication between hospital staff, patients and families.
The Campbells Bay resident is travelling to Seattle Children's Hospital on a Fulbright Scholarship to see how the system has improved rates of re-admission, no-show and the duration of in-hospital stays by up to 50 per cent.
Dr Crezee is originally from the Netherlands, has worked as a nurse, and has a master's degree in translation studies, English and a PHD in applied language studies.
She can speak up to 15 languages and is fluent in five.
Interpreters are an important part of a hospital's workforce, she says, especially in diverse communities such as the North Shore.
It is the hospital's responsibility to cater to patients from foreign cultures, she says.
Waitemata DHB was the last health board in Auckland to introduce a translation service in 2000 and now has an Asian Health Support Service due to the large Korean and Chinese populations.
But there are still patients who fall through the gaps, Dr Crezee says.
"Different cultural beliefs could stop someone from seeking help, or they might not like taking pharmaceutical drugs.
They may believe more in herbal remedies or in avoiding certain foods."
Add to that the shock of receiving a serious diagnosis and there can be big slips in communication and treatment.
That is where a patient navigator can ensure all the bases are covered, Dr Crezee says.
Dr Crezee plans to spend two months in the US, including visits to the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Pierce College where she will be involved in preparing students for video remote interpreting using free software such as Skype.
North Shore Times