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Hispanic Commission study shows gaps in translation services, insurance equity

Megan Pauly
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Hispanic Commission Health and Social Services Chair Rosa Colon-Kolacko presents study findings Thursday.

Delaware’s Hispanic Commission released a study Thursday morning laying out gaps in linguistic and cultural services across the First State for non-native English speakers.

More so in Southern Delaware than anywhere else in the First State, there are still major issues with how translation services are delivered during healthcare.

Rosa Colon-Kolacko is chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission committee for Health and Human Services.

She says most healthcare providers still choose to provide translation services over the phone, instead of in-person - even though it’s more expensive.

“Plus, you cannot use the phone in a trauma," Colon-Kolacko said. "When you have very, very complex health situations, the phone is not the solution.”

Another gap – these translator services are often only provided during diagnostics and not before or after a session when paperwork and financial information is being discussed.

Colon-Kolacko says some providers simply count a couple of bilingual staff as a cultural program and that’s not enough – calling for a statewide language competency program to be considered.

She cited Philadelphia and New York as examples of places who are implementing such programs.

Another gap: an inconsistency between service providers about what documents are necessary when uninsured residents need access to care.

Latin American Community Center Executive Vice President Claudia Pena Porretti feels it’s vital for major healthcare providers and insurance agencies to come to the table to discuss these issues.

“That’s where I feel, in my opinion, the patients are having difficulty because they can’t become insured because of their status, whatever that status is," she said.

The report – compiled by consulting firm – CulturaLink -  is a result of a year-long study using focus groups in all three First State counties, and survey questions sent to over 5,000 individuals – including both healthcare services providers and residents.

Five hospitals in Delaware initially helped design the study, but later revoked their participation. They’re now calling for their own internal studies.


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