Hospitals trying to reach Hispanics

By Justin Boron

Yolanda Arismiendos, like many people, said the hospital is not a fun experience. But it is especially hard for the 54-year-old Jonesboro resident because she doesn't speak English fluently.

Communication with doctors, when no translator is available, often times is a futile task, she said.

"We can't understand them," Arismiendos said.

Because of the language gap, Latinos are reluctant to use the health care resources available in their communities, according to a report last year produced by the National Council of La Raza.

By in large, not much has changed in the situation this year, said Liany Arroyo, the senior program manager for the Atlanta branch of the Latino advocacy group.

Often times, hospital staff is not very sympathetic to the fact that some patients may need translators, she said.

In Clayton County, 6.6 percent of patients served last year at the Southern Regional Medical Center were Hispanic, which is just under the proportion of Hispanics living in the county.

The emergency room isn't foreign to Hispanics in the area.

Juan Rubio, 24, said he had used the hospital when one of his child was delivered.

The hospital is taking a step toward making their services more reachable to the Hispanic population by adding a translated version of its Web site.

Arroyo said the move was a positive step, given the increasing frequency of Hispanics logging on.

"Latinos are one of the fastest growing populations getting onto the Internet," she said.

Internet use among Hispanic adults continues to grow since it was last measured at 50 percent in 2001, she said.

Southern Regional's Spanish site will be translated by Hispanicare, which has overseen the translation of more than 400 Spanish Web sites around the nation.

It will give Spanish-speaking patients access to the physicians, locations, phone numbers, and the services available.

Arroyo also said it would be important for hospitals like Southern Regional to hire interpreters well versed in medical language because critical information can be lost if relayed without a medical translator.