Freedom Folks

Monday, July 24, 2006

Illegal Immigration and Healthcare

This article is fascinating, and provides the most in-depth, experiential look I've seen at the effects on healthcare providers of an influx of non-English speaking residents into an area.

Source: Charleston Post and Courier

Every day, Josie Silvagnoli finds the words to describe birth, death and much that comes in between.

The Medical University of South Carolina interpreter works in the valley between two languages, slipping easily between English and Spanish to help doctors and nurses communicate with patients who don't speak English.

She's a broker between cultures, ferrying information to doctors about a patient's symptoms and translating medical jargon and treatment details.

The people Silvagnoli serves are a growing part of the hospital's patient population. The number of patients who report Spanish as their primary language has more than doubled in the past two years, from 794 in January 2004 to 2,081 last month. The number of patients who speak Portuguese is rising, too.


All hospitals that receive federal funds must provide interpreting services, whether in person or on the phone, for free. To meet the need, MUSC has built a medical interpreting program during the past five years. It now staffs 14 interpreters during the day. Overnight, doctors, nurses and patients rely on Language Line, a California-based telephone service.


"We're not going to be able to keep up with the demand in the near future," said Jason Roberson, a Spanish interpreter who coordinates the hospital's cultural competency program. "The only way to keep up is to recruit more Spanish speakers" to other parts of the staff.


Physicians say adding bilingual support staff is key. Now, when Spanish-speaking patients call Ashley River OB/GYN to make an appointment, receptionists have to pull Puerto Rico-born Dr. Joyce Noriega out of exams to speak to them. Same when Hispanic patients get lost on their way to the office and call for directions, or when women who have just given birth need instructions in Spanish.

"It's a little bit disruptive to the access of care," Noriega said. "It makes it hard for me to care for a lot of patients if I have 20 people that I'm having to answer the phone for."


When the talk is unclear, doctors say continuity of care breaks down. Noriega recalls seeing charts of pregnant patients where health histories were incomplete or incorrect because of language barriers. Essential elements such as whether they'd had a baby before and, if they had diabetes, how and when they'd been treated, were prone to be wrong, she said.

This isn't fair to anyone...and it's only one facet of the myriad problems we face as a nation with regards to illegal immigration. Our government is aggressively trying to bankrupt the American people and change this country for the worse. I don't know why. I don't even really care -- they just have to be stopped.

Whatever it takes.

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Illegal Immigration * Healthcare * Medical Interpreter



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