Advocates in the New Orleans area are helping the city’s Spanish-speaking population surmount barriers to access health care during the pandemic.
“The pandemic exacerbated the social and logistical barriers the Hispanic community faces when it comes to health care access,” said Claudia Medina, director of International and Language Services at Ochsner Health. After the lockdown in March, Medina knew Ochsner had to act fast to provide interpreting services remotely.
Medina worked with the hospital’s technology team to link Zoom to Ochsner’s emergency medical services. The challenge was that the system’s patient-facing portal was only in English, which meant that the people who needed language services didn’t know how to log in or navigate it. It also required doctors to manually invite interpreters to patient meetings.
So, Medina implemented an interpreter-controlled setup. Now, interpreters coordinate telemedicine appointments with doctors and patients. An interpreter checks in with patients prior to appointments to ensure they know what to expect and how to access Zoom and the patient portal.
“What the pandemic has done is show what is going well and what is not in the current system, because everything is under a pressure cooker,” said Adam Bradley, executive director at Luke’s House Clinic in Central City New Orleans. Bradley also serves on the board of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
Amid the pandemic, Luke’s House utilized its phone database to send out personalized texts in Spanish with health resources and practical advice about hand washing and social distancing. “We have the resources to make effective decisions, but we need to make sure the people who are most impacted have a say,” Bradley said.
Lindsey Navarro, founder and executive director of the financial literacy nonprofit El Centro, has spent her career advocating for the Hispanic community. She said that throughout the pandemic she has seen “a failure by government leaders to understand the importance of the social and cultural diversity of the Latino population.”
“I don’t think speaking to someone directly in Spanish is going to solve the issue or cause the community to directly trust that person,” Navarro said. “It takes more time and investment to understand the needs of the community.”
She said while churches, community organizations, and Spanish-language media are all crucial forms of outreach, nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.
“In the Latino community, if one person has a good experience, they tell five more,” she said. “One bad experience burns everything you’ve worked for to the ground.”
Medina emphasized that offering health care in someone’s preferred language is not only legally mandated but essential in engendering trust. “The language barrier is one of many. We have to understand, when we talk about Hispanics who are low-income, who are immigrants without papers, that they fear health care.”
Read Full Article from the New Orleans Public Radio (LA) (11/02/20)
Author: Marie Elizabeth Oliver
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