'Language barrier is putting foreign patients at risk'
A CZECH woman claims foreign patients are being put at risk by interpreters who do not speak the correct language.
Helena Mala said Polish interpreters who do not speak her language have been sent to her medical appointments, or an interpreter has not turned up at all.
She said on one occasion, the language barrier resulted in her taking twice the recommended dose of strong painkillers.
Now, Ms Mala – who suffers from numerous medical conditions, including back problems – has launched a petition to ensure the correct interpreters are booked to help foreign patients.
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She plans to hand it over to Hull North MP Diana Johnson.
Speaking through an interpreter, Ms Mala, 47, said: "How does the doctor know the medical terms and questions he is asking are correctly interpreted both ways?
"It is really sad that ill people are exposed to such danger.
"All interpreters working for interpreting services should be checked that they do speak and are qualified to interpret in the correct language. I'm very worried."
Ms Mala, of Cottingham Road, north Hull, said she sometimes seeks help from her friend and interpreter Dagmar Cook, who speaks Czech and Slovak.
Ms Cook said she has often called to check an interpreter has been booked for Ms Mala before GP or hospital appointments.
But despite reassurances, she claims Ms Mala was still left without the correct interpreter or none at all.
Ms Cook, who has been an interpreter for 35 years, said she has met other patients who claim they are experiencing similar problems.
She said: "It has been a problem for years.
"When people go to see a doctor, they are often quite nervous.
"They need proper explanation and reassurance.
"I met a woman in hospital who thought she'd had an ectopic pregnancy but she'd had a miscarriage.
"This poor woman thought she was never going to have a baby and lived through all that worry."
Hull City Council and NHS Hull, the city's primary care trust, fund the interpretation and translation service.
Despite Ms Mala's concerns, Darren Dawson, assistant head of service support for Hull City Council, said the correct interpreter was sent for Ms Mala on all but one occasion. He said: "Interpreters are booked by services, such as GP practices, who provide details of the language required, the date, time and location the interpreter is needed, and the interpretation service then matches this requirement.
"In this case, a Czech interpreter was requested and provided on all occasions, except one where the request was made at too short notice. "There have been no complaints regarding this case or the quality of the associated interpreters."