Interpreters in Durango know language but not intricacies

Health-care providers in La Plata County are wondering how they’re going to explain the intricacies of health-insurance exchanges to non-English-speaking patients.

Spanish speakers are available as interpreters, but providers would have to scramble to find people fluent enough in other foreign languages to help.

Health-insurance exchanges are mandated under the 900-page Affordable Care Act that takes effect next year. The exchanges are regulated insurance markets open to providers that meet certain criteria.

La Plata Family Centers Coalition will meet today on the very topic with its collaborative partners, program manager Rachel Cameron said Friday.

Participants will discuss health-insurance exchanges specifically and the Affordable Care Act in general, Cameron said. Its partners are the San Juan Basin Health Department, Mercy Regional Medical Center, the county Department of Health Services and Durango School District 9-R school-based health clinics.

La Plata Family Centers Coalition has two health-care advocates who are certified Spanish interpreters, Cameron said.

Nicole Mosher, director of Compañeros immigrant resource center, said she has interpreters available to accompany Spanish speakers to medical appointments.

But health-insurance exchanges are another matter, Mosher said.

“We’re not experts,” Mosher said. “I’d like to see literature in Spanish. We need to get trained.”

Jane Looney at San Juan Basin Health Department said there are Spanish-speaking employees there who would try to help.

The department doesn’t have employees fluent in other foreign languages, she said.

Mercy Regional Medical Center began providing language interpretation and translation services well before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, hospital spokesman David Bruzzese said in an email Friday.

“We have a number of in-house interpreters for the languages most commonly spoken in the Four Corners and have contracted services to provide phone interpretation in 210 languages.

“Our most commonly used forms are readily available in Spanish, and others are translated on an as-needed basis,” Bruzzese said.

Video Remote Interpretation units, which allow providers and patients to communicate, are being tested in several facilities operated by Centura Health, Mercy’s parent company. Bruzzese said it is expected that tool will be available at Mercy early this summer.

An earlier version of this story misidentified La Plata Family Medicine.