MVHS staffs interpreters to translate health care

UTICA, N.Y.-- Mohawk Valley Health System is now using their own staff of interpreters to translate medical terminology for their growing refugee patient base.

Posted: Jan. 8, 2018 6:46 PM
Updated: Jan. 8, 2018 6:57 PM

UTICA, N.Y.-- Mohawk Valley Health System is now using their own staff of interpreters to translate medical terminology for their growing refugee patient base.

The MVHS Language Services Department employs more than 20 interpreters, and officials are looking for more who speak Arabic, Burmese, Bosnian, Karen, Nepali, Spanish and Vietnamese.

"We want to ensure we can offer and treat patients all the same," Sulien Miller, director of the Language Assistance Program said. "It doesn't matter if they speak English or not."

While New York state law mandates hospitals offer translation services to patients, most hospitals use outside translation services. 

MVHS's in-house department makes them unique, but they still supplement with phone and video translation services.

"You have a patient come in and quickly, they can have access to more than 200 languages," Miller said. "We have to understand what languages our communities speak so that we can prepare to offer those services."

MVHS works closely with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to help serve non-English speakers as efficiently as possible. If the MVHS interpreters are busy or don't have a translator for a particular patient, they will use help from MVRCR.

"Those are the folks that provide medical services to our clients, so we're there as case workers, we're there as interpreters," Shelly Callahan, executive director of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees said. "What you really want to see in these cities, these communities like this where the diversity is high, is for folks to develop their own capacity to handle language services."

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