Nearly one-third of U.S. hospitals fail to offer interpreters to patients who speak limited English, although federal law requires it, a new study shows.
“People have a right to hear a cancer diagnosis in a language they understand, not through hand gestures,” lead author Melody Schiaffino said in a telephone interview.
One in 10 adults in the U.S. struggle to communicate in English, census data show.
When hospitals don’t make interpreters available, much can be lost in translation, said Schiaffino, who is an epidemiologist at San Diego State University’s Graduate School of Public Health in California.
She was surprised to find that one-fourth of hospitals in areas with a high or moderate need for language services didn’t offer them. The same was true for more than one-third of hospitals in low-need areas, her team reported in Health Affairs.
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