Franklin County officials keep bilingual lines open

July 05, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about the growing Hispanic population in Franklin County, Pa. The first part appeared Sunday.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Picture cards. Telephone systems. Volunteer translators.

Agencies in Franklin County, Pa., encountering a language barrier on the job employ some common tools to communicate with people in need. Officials say they find the most spoken language other than English is Spanish.

The Franklin County 911 center receives about three or four calls a week from people speaking Spanish, Assistant Communications Coordinator Ben Rice said.

He said the first step is to reach the AT&T Language Line, which provides translators in a host of languages. Typically a Spanish-speaking translator answers the line because of the frequency of those calls.


Connection wait time is typically less than a minute, Rice said.

"I've been working here 10 years and we've been using it as long as I've been here," said Rice, who said none of the current 911 operators are bilingual.

Chambersburg and Waynesboro, Pa., hospitals also use the Language Line, according to Karlee Brown, a spokeswoman for Summit Health, which owns and operates both hospitals.

"It is very important that all patients fully understand what is occurring in regards to their health and treatment," Brown said.

The hospital nursing units have access to cultural diversity kits, which include words in several languages and pictures on index cards. Brown said the "Talking Pictures" help nurses and doctors get basic information about how patients are feeling.

Both hospitals have the "Rynecki/Arthur Interpretive Tool" information packet that allows Spanish-speaking patients to answer "yes" or "no" to a series of nursing questions.

Brown said several staff members at Chambersburg Hospital have completed a voluntary certification program for translation competency. Although they are not full-time interpreters, they have offered their services if needed.

The Franklin County Chapter of the American Red Cross has a couple bilingual volunteers, Director Tom Reardon said.

"All of our materials we have available to us in English and Spanish," he said.

Also, the national organization makes all of its materials available in a variety of languages through its computer system.

Reardon estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of clients speak Spanish. Most of the time, enough English is known to allow for communication, or someone from the household speaks English and can translate.

"We need volunteers who can speak all languages," Reardon said, saying the chapter had a Chinese-speaking client in the past year.

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