Interpreting the Health Message: February 23, 2014

The fabric of Southwest Florida is colorful, with people coming from many cultures and countries to live here.

“In the recent American Community Survey there’s 21% of the households in Lee County speak another language other than English,” says Yemisi Oloruntola- Coates, language services manager with Lee Memorial Health System.

A percentage of those barely get by in English. It makes for an interesting community, but also creates issues in health care.

“Because when you’re in a health care setting, communicating to your health care provider, it is a different type of conversation than having a one-on-one conversation at home,” says Oloruntola- Coates.

To ensure good two-way communication, Lee Memorial Health System sought out translators, ones certified to interpret in a medical setting, to make sure patients understand their health information.

“This department is designed to care for the communication vulnerable patient, so, i.e. the deaf patient, non-English, limited English proficient, or the blind, hard of hearing, low literacy,” says Oloruntola- Coates.

It takes a diverse group to meet the community’s needs. Translators are on staff able to interpret Creole, Spanish and German, along with resources for the blind and deaf.

“People are all so ecstatic to see us. They’re appreciative of us being here to provide equal access. That’s the most important thing for us; for deaf people to have equal access and have communication,” says Jody Belcher, certified interpreter with Lee Memorial Health System.

Interpreter’s work with patients for the duration of their visit or stay, to make sure no one gets left behind in the health care journey.