Healthy Communities Start with Health...

Healthy Communities Start with Healthy Communication

Posted in the Health Forum

Tashia Moseley

United States

#1 May 24, 2013
Trisha Ishtar*, a 24-year-old Assyrian legal immigrant from Iraq that lives in Modesto, will always remember April 24th as being bittersweet.“It’s not only my birthday,” she says with tears in her eyes,“but it’s the day that I was supposed to have my baby!”.
Trisha went to Kaiser Permanente-Modesto in August of last year because she had pain in her side. They gave her pain pills and told her to see a gynecologist. When she went, the doctor – through an Egyptian Interpreter- said that she had a small growth on her ovary and prescribed birth control pills in addition to the pain pills.
The next month, during her follow-up appointment, Trisha – eager to start a family- asked the doctor if she could stop taking all the prescribed medicine because she wanted to get pregnant; “… besides, the pills made my stomach hurt even more!” The Interpreter told her that the doctor said to stop taking the birth control pills and prescribed Panadol for the pain as needed. Trisha, not quite understanding the Egyptian Interpreter’s Arabic, stopped taking the birth control pills, and started taking the Panadol daily. A month later, a now pregnant Trisha was told that her baby was small.“I thought I had to take the Panadol everyday like I had been doing with the other pain killers!” The next week, Trisha had a miscarriage; “I didn’t understand what was going on or why I had a miscarriage! I thought I was following the doctor’s orders. If I had an Interpreter who spoke my language [Arabic from Iraq] to tell me the risks of taking pain killers while I was pregnant, I wouldn’t have taken them and would have saved my baby!”
Ishtar’s ordeal would be terrifying for anyone, but the reality is that it’s not an unusual one. More than six and a half million residents in the state of California, or one out of every five residents, speaks English “less than very well” according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Right now there are 2.5 million people in our state healthcare program who aren’t able to communicate with their doctors and half of the people coming in under the Affordable Care Act won’t be able to either.
This fall, the state legislature and the governor have the opportunity to create a medical interpreters program through Medi-Cal. Governor Brown and members of the legislature need to hear more stories like Trisha’s in order for them to create a program that truly serves all members of our community. It’s a do or die time for getting the state ready to communicate with members of our community who speak English less than well and avoiding malpractice, liability and unnecessary costs that come from failed communication. Call Interpreting for California at 888-673-3930 to record your story of why medical interpretation services are desperately needed. Our families’ well-being is too important not to.
Interpreting for California is a campaign for language access in medical settings that involves community members, interpreters and providers. You can find out more by calling 888-673-3930 or by emailing [email protected]
*Name changed for anonymity

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