Windsor

1,000 calls a year for medically-trained interpretation in Windsor hospitals

In Windsor, they've been providing a interpretation tele-service for about 15 years, 24 hours a day.

Each language costs a different amount per minute, based on the time of day

In Windsor, they've been providing a interpretation tele-service for about 15 years, 24 hours a day. (iStock)

There are about 1,000 calls a year for medically-trained interpretation at Windsor Regional Hospital. 

A recent study by Dr. Shail Rawal showed pateints with limited English are more likely to be return to the emergency room or be readmitted to hospital because of a lack of medically-trained interpreters. 

In Windsor, that's not the case — they've been providing a interpretation tele-service for about 15 years, 24 hours a day.

"I remember, David [Musyj] was actually a VP and he said to me 'Well it's not like they have interpreters available 24 hours a day,' and we said ... Actually, it is," said Gisele Seguin, the hospital's director of public affairs, communications and philanthropy.

There are two two-handset phones on wheels that can be moved where needed, and there are stationary phones in the emergency department and at the switchboard. The service — free to patients — runs through Interpretalk, a third-party service.

"We liked the fact that the medical translation is guaranteed," said Seguin about deciding to use a third-party service. "I speak French and I could translate ... but would I want to explain a specific medical procedure? I don't have that terminology."

Seguin said that's usually the case in the hospital — family and friends might be able to translate the basics, but not specific instructions or diagnoses from doctors. 

471 calls for Arabic interpretation in 9 months

Interpretalk offers medically-trained translators in 170 different languages. Each language costs a different amount per minute, based on the time of day. 

At Windsor Regional, there were 471 calls for Arabic language interpretation in the last nine months. Totalled, those calls ran for about 7,210 minutes and cost about $1 a minute — $7,282.20 in total. Arabic is one of the most frequently requested languages, along with Tagalog and Urdu, primarily spoken in the Phillipines and Pakistan, respectively. There are fewer requests for languages such as Telegu, Cantonese and Spanish. 

When the hospital first signed up it was called 'Language Line,' something Toronto-area hospitals were using — as well as the City of Windsor. 

"I kind of thought everybody was using it, to be honest," said Seguin. "It's not, by itself, a solution to everything, but it's a great tool."

One of the things the hospital likes most about the service is that there's a guarantee on medically-correct translation. 

"I've only ever heard of people grateful for the chance to use it," said Seguin, adding that she hasn't heard a complaint about this kind of service in the last decade. She's even seen it used to help a patient order a meal. 

Interpretalk, which operates under the banner of 'Language Services Associates' has about 3,000 active telephone interpreters and answers most calls inside of 20 seconds. 

The service costs the hospital about $20,000 a year overall. 

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