Closing the Gap on Language Access in Health Care

“Professional interpreters ensure that the patient’s voice and autonomy has a presence in their care.” – Allana Carlyle, Language Access Manager

Individuals seeking or receiving care often do so under highly emotional or traumatic circumstances, relying upon care teams to provide professional, highly-skilled and compassionate care during some of the most challenging moments in their life. Health-care interactions can be anxiety-inducing, or scary. Clear, effective communication and information-sharing is essential to the equitable, safe delivery of health services.

That’s where the Language Access Team, and its Manager, Allana Carlyle, come in, building a foundation of accessible communication that works toward closing the language health equity gap, each and every day.

“We receive more than 200 service requests each day from across the province,” said Carlyle. “Our team currently offers face-to-face and remote interpretation in 36 spoken, non-Indigenous languages, as well as over-the-phone in over 200 languages through a contract with an external provider. We partner closely with Indigenous Health as they provide professional interpretation in local Indigenous languages and ECCOE, for the provision of sign language interpretation.”

Language Access Interpreters provide an essential service available to the many Manitobans for whom French or English are not their preferred languages. For these individuals, and for the health-care providers responsible for their care, language has the potential to impact experience and even outcome.

For patients, access to interpreter services offers the ability to share what is going on with their health and their body. For health service providers it means being able to receive information vital to the development of an informed care plan – and to share the details of that plan with the patient and obtain their informed consent.

Allana Carlyle, Language Access Manager

“The role of Language Access goes far beyond interpretation,” said Carlyle. “Interpreters perform their role in accordance with evidence-based best practices, offering confidential, accurate, impartial interpretation that reduces risk, removes barriers and improves safety and quality of care.”

“These dedicated professionals support all parties in the health care encounter. Untrained interpreters, such as family members, especially children, should not be asked to interpret.”

One of the core teachings in health equity is to find gaps in the health care system that might be hidden.

“As an English speaker, I can’t imagine seeking care without the ability to speak my language,” added Carlyle. “Being able to share and fully understand health information is essential. We are giving people their voices back and allowing them to engage actively in their own  health care in a way that is literally life-changing.”

To support equitable, client-centred care, Language Access Interpreter Services are provided at no cost to publicly funded health services as well as CancerCare MB and fee-for-service physicians working in Winnipeg.

To request Language Access Interpreter Services, health service providers may:

Interpreter requests for all language constituencies, including Indigenous languages and sign language can be directed to the interpreter central intake line 204-788-8585.

Services are accessed on a cost-recovery basis by all other health service delivery organizations in Manitoba and across the continuum of government service sectors including social services, justice, education, enterprise/trade and finance.

For more information, please visit https://professionals.wrha.mb.ca/old/professionals/language/

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