Translators in public hospitals


April 28, 2018

In reference to the letter by your correspondent Irene Johnson regarding my letter the previous week on the de-privatisation of public hospitals in the Valencia region, I believe she has missed my point completely.
I was not demanding a translation service (which existed at Villajoyosa, but no longer does, but seems to be on the way to replacement) but simply stating the many fallbacks public-run public hospital have shown in comparison to private-run public hospitals. My main point was treatment, organisation and patient care (and respect). This is where I firmly believe going back to ‘Villajoyosa-style’ management is a huge mistake – not regarding the translation service, which I believe is a bonus.
Having said that, I totally agree with her that the ideal scenario would be for everyone to learn Spanish. But let’s be realistic – the ‘ideal’ scenario will never happen. She refers to translators in the NHS (I know only too well of them, and thank goodness they are there in some areas of the UK where English is no longer the most-spoken language). Indeed, everyone there should learn the language too. But face the facts – it just won’t happen.
She claims that cash should go to medical care. I agree, but I honestly believe that that is what a reliable translation service achieves too. Many elderly people and those who are still struggling with Spanish can easily mistake certain terms when explaining their condition to doctors, and misdiagnosis because the patient hasn’t been able to exactly word their aches or pains is sadly too frequent. How much money has been saved by translators who have accurately described a patient’s condition to a doctor as opposed to that wasted on unnecessary treatments (some even life-threatening) because the patient could not tell the doctor what she or he was feeling? You’ll probably find translators actually save the public health service money rather that waste it!

John Hopkins

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  1. I work in the NHS in UK.
    We have to have an expensive translator service for a wide variety of people that come through the various doors (GP surgery/Walk in Centre/Hosp services for appointment or emergencies), these are for EVERY language for EVERY person that needs to be treated – and so no miscommunication/misunderstanding leads to wrong diagnosis/treatment.
    People can of course learn to speak the language of residents, but in this modern age of free movement why not cater for those that can’t speak the local language.


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