DMI Blog

Andrew Friedman

New Protections for Immigrant Patients

Getting sick is always anxiety provoking. It is even more so when you can't communicate with your doctor because of language barriers. Studies show that health care is also more dangerous and more expensive when these language barriers exist.

Last week was a good one, though, for millions of New Yorkers who are still in the process of learning English. First, New York State Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer, settled a civil rights complaint that was filed by Make the Road by Walking, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Latin American Integration Center and others against four hospitas in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island for failing to provide the translation and interpretation services that are required by City, state and federal law. Basically, all four hospitals agreed to create comprehensive new systems for providing patients with the interpretation and translation services they need.

Even more significantly, though, for millions of immigrant New Yorkers, was the fact the New York State Department of Health rolled out new regulations for all New York State hospitals that requiere significantly improved communication assistance for limited English proficient and hearing- and vision-impaired patients. The new regulations marked a significant turnaround for the Department of Health, which had been lax about enforcing even the weaker regulations that existed previously. The DOH turnaround is largely a result of aggressive organizing, advocacy and legal work by immigrants rights organizations, and DOH embarrassment in the face of Spitzer's cruading civil rights law enforcement while DOH remained passive and permissive.

Now that hospitals have new rules, we will need the immigrant community, the DOH and the State Attorney General to vigorously enforce them.

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Posted at 7:55 AM, Sep 18, 2006 in Language Access
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