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Accessible Health Care: 5. Emergencies Transcript

[Narrator is signing]

All of these are things you can do under ideal circumstances when you have the time to discuss things calmly.

[Visual of medical personnel rushing a patient down a hospital hallway]

However, in an emergency time can be critical. You need to able to communicate immediately.

As soon as you arrive, let the urgent care or emergency room intake person know that you’re deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing and ask for a qualified ASL interpreter. You can’t expect them to know your needs if you don’t tell them. But, you can expect them to meet their obligations.

[Text on screen: Stay as calm as possible]

It’s important to stay as calm as possible. Be respectful to everyone but keep repeating your request, in writing, until you have the communications assistance you need.

This isn’t the time to say you’ll be contacting a lawyer or threaten to sue. You need to focus on getting the medical attention you need.

[Heather Gilbert is signing] 

Emergency situations can be very emotional and it can be hard to keep track of the details when doctors and nurses are coming and going. I’d suggest doing these things:

[Text on screen: Request a qualified interpreter in writing]

Request a qualified interpreter in writing. Note the date, time and the name of the person that you asked to provide an interpreter.

[Text on screen: Meet with the person who coordinates interpreting services]

Ask to see the person who coordinates interpreting services so that they understand that you need an ASL interpreter and that they are being held accountable.

[Text on screen: Access VRI if available]

If the hospital representative says that they use a Video Remote Interpreting service, or VRI, service, ask them to provide access immediately.

[Text on screen: Request an on-site interpreter if available]

If you’ve requested an on-site interpreter, ask when the interpreter is expected to arrive. As I mentioned before, document the time and the name of the person you spoke with.

[Text on screen: Having a family member translate is not acceptable]

If the hospital’s representative says they want to communicate with you through a hearing family member, let them know that this isn’t acceptable.

[Text on screen: Repeat your request for an ASL interpreter]

Repeat your request for an interpreter in writing, then keep a copy of the note.

[Text on screen: Inform hospital that written notes are not acceptable] 

If the hospital or doctor is writing to you, it’s important to write that you don’t understand or that you can’t express yourself clearly in writing. Don’t be embarrassed about this. If you don’t write that you don’t understand, the hospital will think you do understand and will think that writing is an effective way to communicate with you. The hospital may later tell a judge that an interpreter was not necessary because you understood what was written and could write back.

[Text on screen: Repeat your request for an ASL interpreter] 

Repeat your request for an ASL interpreter in writing each time. Again, keep a copy of every note. Ask for copies of the notes that they write to you as well.

[Text on screen: Ask the nurse/doctor if an interpreter has been contacted]

If you’ve been in the emergency room for a while, periodically ask the nurse or doctor in writing if an interpreter has been contacted and when the interpreter is expected to arrive. Keep their written responses.

[Text on screen: Be polite and respectful]

Try to be polite and respectful but firm. Remind the staff you have the right to get an interpreter. 

[Text on screen: Contact the head nurse]

If you don’t think the hospital is responding, contact the head nurse or the hospital’s patient advocate.

[Text on screen: Keep copies of all notes]

Keep copies of all the notes and ask for copies of other people’s notes as well. 

[Text on screen: Understand what’s being told to you]

Once the interpreter arrives, make sure you understand what both the interpreter and the staff are telling you. Your health is too important to take chances with.

[Text on screen: Be honest about your understanding of your medical situation]

Be honest about your understanding of your medical situation. 

[Rania Johnson is signing]

Once the emergency situation is under control, you may need to be hospitalized or receive further treatment. Hospitals and clinics are required to provide access to a qualified interpreter throughout your stay. 

This doesn’t mean that an interpreter will be sitting by your bedside 24 hours a day or that you can ask for an interpreter in order to request another pillow. 

However, it does mean that the hospital should schedule a qualified interpreter to be available several times during the day so that you can communicate with your doctor, understand treatments or procedures and participate effectively in therapies. This also ensures that you have scheduled times to ask questions.

The interpreter coordinator is usually responsible for making sure that doctors and other providers are available when the interpreter will be on site.

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