In the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, the use of trained interpreters is strictly enforced by a government policy, while in Canada there is no such legislative framework and it is common to see the use of family, friends, bilingual staff, or even young children acting as interpreters, which exposes patients with limited English proficiency to increased risk of distorted communication in health care;
The use of medical interpreters is considered a nuisance due to inconvenience and costs;
A growing body of research (i.e. Pay Now or Pay Later [Ku & Flores 2015]) shows that the use of trained interpreters reduces the number of preventable medical errors; however, a lack of trained interpreter services lowers patient satisfaction and trust in health care, increases the cost of health care, and leads to inefficient care because clinicians are unable to elicit patient symptoms correctly and end up using redundant diagnostic resources or invasive procedures, which can also result in more emergency room and specialist visits; and
Current practices not only constitute a short-sighted approach but also constitute a breach in the duty of care owed to the patient and could result in legal action.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Create an action plan for training and recruiting qualified medical interpreters;
2. Institute a federal-level policy enforcing the use of trained interpreters in health care settings; and
3. Ensure mandatory training for health care providers on how to effectively work with interpreters.
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