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Dealing With Diversity: June 1, 2014

It’s one thing to talk about diversity in the workplace- but practicing it is far more difficult. When it comes to health care- planning is critical.

“This department is designed to care for the communication vulnerable patient, so, i.e. the deaf patient, non-English, limited English proficient. Or the blind, hard of hearing, low literacy,” explains Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates. She oversees diversity and language services for Lee Memorial Health System.

Without a live interpreter, deaf patient Ann Greenall is afraid her appointment with an asthma specialist might get lost in translation.

“It helps me a lot…” Greenall says through a translator. “It bridges the gap between hearing world and deaf world.”

Expressing medical issues and understanding medical advice affects both treatment and outcomes. And the communication gap is widening when it comes to non-English speaking patients.

“Twenty-one percent of the household of Lee County speak a language other than English. So we make sure that we are here to facilitate,” says Oloruntola-Coates.

So in addition to deaf services, Lee Memorial Health System offers assistive devices and has trained translators on staff.

“We have on staff Haitian, Creole interpreters, Spanish interpreters and we have a German interpreter,” says Oloruntola-Coates.

Interpreters stay with the patient throughout their healthcare visit.  The message is straightforward: provide everyone equal access to care.