Public information about the coronavirus is critical to keep people healthy, or treat them when they get sick.
Making sure everyone can understand accurate information about the virus is essential to flattening the curve.
Understanding the information a doctor is saying might be especially difficult for non-English speaking patients. That’s why Paul Beltran with Indiana Health Center in South Bend says interpreters are essential in health care at all times.
“We are a nation of many, many immigrants from diverse backgrounds and not all are English-speaking,” Beltran says.
However, during a health crisis like this, Beltran says it’s critical that everyone is able to communicate accurate and clear information.
“Medical professionals need to be able to understand where the patient has been, what they’ve been doing, who they’ve been in contact with,” he says.
Elena Langdon is with the American Translator Association. She says having interpreters help relay information about the coronavirus to non-English speaking patients is a matter of public safety.
“It becomes very dangerous if we have whole different groups of people that are not informed because they are not being communicated in the language they speak and therefore they’re not getting the updated information and then they could be spreading the virus more because of lack of information,” Langdon says.
She says it gets even harder to find interpreters for more uncommon languages.
“You might have a patient in Michiana who speaks Bengali, or who speaks Urdu, or who speaks Somali," she says. "If you have a patient who speaks a language you don’t see very much, it’s going to be much harder to be set up for that.”
Langdon said interpreters for rare languages are more accessible by phone and video. That’s a service several local hospitals are using.
Officials from Spectrum Health Lakeland said they have video interpreting available in more than 30 languages. According to Beacon Health System’s website, they also have free interpreters via telephone.