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Doctors, in addition to the responsibilities they already face, will now have to serve as timekeepers…

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differential treatment under a labyrinthine workers’ compensation system which (though it all too frequently fails) aspires to be accurate, thorough, and just. This legislation is a disaster, not just for professional interpreters who deserve better than to be subject to what amounts to a form of discrimination, but for the injured workers, who stand to have their lives adversely and irrevocably affected by the changes proposed. “Professional interpreters exist to ensure that non-English speakers will be ably and accurately represented. The role professional interpreters play is crucial, and I emphasize ‘professional’ because there is simply no way to overstate the extent to which the legal and medical terminology that goes into a workers’ compensation case is available to the average person, even if they’re fully bilingual. These are specialized fields, with specialized vocabularies, and those vocabularies matter. Cases are decided on that basis. “It is essential that injured workers be empowered to both receive and transmit information that is thorough and correct. The proposed legislation would enable parties, who have no qualifications to evaluate an interpreter’s skills, to ‘designate’ a random party and provisionally certify them. Perhaps it’s a son, or an administrative assistant, or someone who happens to be in the waiting room who speaks the language in question. An adjuster — or doctor, or judge — could, according to these changes, point to that person and say, ‘you are now a certified interpreter.’ “To demonstrate how deeply inappropriate and irresponsible this is, it might be instructive to ask the average person on the street to translate a deposition, or to explain a complex surgical procedure to a passerby. “This is an effort to completely undermine the rights of injured workers. It is an insult to professional interpreters, who take their responsibilities toward the population they serve extremely seriously and train for years in order to be able to do it well. It absurdly overestimates the discriminatory powers doctors and judges have, who are neither magical nor omniscient,

Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine

and who are no more qualified to ‘certify’ interpreters than they are to ‘certify’ someone as a banker for a day, or a lawyer, or a nurse. This is not a game. People’s lives are in the balance. If this goes through, the following can be expected to take place: 1) The health and recovery of non-Englishspeaking Injured workers will be jeopardized by the State of California — to the benefit of the insurance companies, who are quite literally the only beneficiaries of these changes. 2) Injured workers will, in fact,  lose their right to due process. 3) Doctors will be at far greater risk for malpractice or poor treatment. If effectively forced by the State of California to treat patients with the misunderstandings poor translations frequently produce, they will be writing opinions and reports based on inadequate or erroneous information. 4) Doctors, in addition to the responsibilities they already face, will now have to serve as timekeepers, recording the amount of time the interpreter spent with the injured worker. Here, too, doctors are credited with an omniscience they simply do not have. Anyone who has ever attended a medical appointment knows that the time spent with the doctor is a small fraction of the time spent in his office. An injured worker does not have the right to an interpreter during his or her time with the doctor; he or she has a right to an interpreter whenever asked to provide or receive medical information. He has a legal right to an interpreter when he has to fill out forms he cannot understand, follow instructions, schedule a next appointment, collect prescriptions. There are three choices, then: a. If the proposed legislation sincerely proposes that the doctor personally supervise and document all these transactions, the system will be broken in weeks, not months. b. If the proposed legislation proposes to deny the patient the right to an interpreter while filling out all the forms the doctor will ultimately use when writing his/her report, that’s a flagrant violation of the law and demonstrates the extent to which injured workers have become ancillary to the system intended to serve them.

Profile for Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

2015-Jul/Aug - SSV Medicine  

Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine is the official journal of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) and promotes the history,...

2015-Jul/Aug - SSV Medicine  

Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine is the official journal of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) and promotes the history,...