COVID-19 Update

Open Letter on Ensuring Healthcare Interpreters’ Safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 3, 2020
Delivered via email

National Governors Association
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Chair

American Hospital Association
Richard J. (Rick) Pollack, President and Chief Executive Officer

American Medical Association
Dr. Patrice A. Harris, President

American Nurses Association
Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, President

America’s Essential Hospitals
Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, President and CEO

Catholic Health Association
Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, President & Chief Executive Officer

Federation of American Hospitals
Charles N. Kahn III (Chip), President & Chief Executive Officer

Dear colleagues,

We, the undersigned representatives of the healthcare interpreter profession, are deeply concerned about the safety of healthcare interpreters, language access services for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) and their families, and safety of all healthcare workers during this pandemic.

We understand that many hospitals and healthcare systems in the U.S. are doing their best to re-think the logistics of providing health care and to allocate all resources efficiently and effectively. The current situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Safety of all healthcare workers with direct patient contact must be our number one priority. This includes physicians, nurses, allied professionals, and face-to-face/onsite healthcare interpreters whether or not they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are potentially COVID-19-positive.

We advise healthcare administrators and managers that face-to-face/onsite healthcare interpreters should be provided the same level of protection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as any healthcare provider for whom they are interpreting. We recognize that the PPE shortage may necessitate certain limiting measures in some facilities and locations. It is extremely important for managers to have transparent and honest conversations with interpreters and collectively come to an understanding when and to whom PPE is provided.

Ultimately, if appropriate PPE is not available for an interpreter, then alternatives to face-to-face/onsite interpreting MUST be provided to both reduce the spread of the coronavirus by interpreters and ensure their personal safety. Unlike most healthcare providers, interpreters work in different departments, different facilities, and even different campuses throughout the day. Their inadequate protection will result in spreading the virus not only in the community and to their families, but also to other healthcare workers and patients within and outside a specific facility.

We recommend all hospitals, health systems, clinics, and healthcare providers deploy Remote Interpreting (RI) for most of their interactions with LEP patients and their families, as the primary modality for delivery of language access services in the time of this pandemic. We understand that implementation of RI cannot happen overnight and may require certain IT solutions as well as evaluation for compliance with laws and regulations. However, implementing RI will allow facilities to reserve much needed PPE for healthcare professionals who must be in direct contact with patients. Furthermore, face-to-face interpreters have a higher risk of becoming a vector of infection even with the appropriate use of PPE due to the mobility of their job.

In situations when institutions are utilizing telemedicine/telehealth options for providing care, they need to incorporate RI into these solutions to ensure equal access to health care for LEP patients.

Remote Interpreting may be implemented in the following ways:

  • Creating in-house RI call centers from where current staff interpreters interpret remotely via video or phone. In such call centers, proper distancing and cleaning protocols must be enforced to ensure safety of interpreters.
  • Equipping current staff interpreters with tools to interpret from home via a video application or phone.
  • Expanding utilization of, or contracting with, language service companies providing RI as part of their business model.

Regardless of the method chosen, the facility must ensure that LEP patients are placed into rooms that have access to a phone or video device (tablet, computer monitor, TV screen) connected to the internet.

It is also important to keep in mind that the steps we are taking in these extraordinary times do not negate the need for face-to-face interpreting modality overall, as this modality is crucial when interpreting for hard-of-hearing patients, patients with dementia, deafblind patients, young children, etc.

We encourage all interpreters to work closely with their management to help ensure the safety of everyone and to continue to provide equal access to health care for LEP patients.

Together we will persevere. Thank you for your service!

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the following organizations:

Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (www.cchicertification.org)
American Translators Association (www.atanet.org)
California Healthcare Interpreting Association (www.chiaonline.org)
InterpretAmerica (www.interpretamerica.com)
Joint National Committee for Languages (www.languagepolicy.org)
National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (www.ncihc.org)
Texas Association of Healthcare Interpreters and Translators (www.tahit.us)

 

 

 

  • CCHI’s Statement on Ensuring Healthcare Interpreters’ Safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic (03/25/20)

    March 25, 2020
    Washington, DC
    Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters

    The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) is deeply concerned about the safety of healthcare interpreters, language access services for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) and their families, and safety of all healthcare workers during this pandemic.

    We understand that many hospitals and healthcare systems in the U.S. are doing their best to re-think the logistics of providing health care and to allocate all resources efficiently and effectively. The current situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Safety of all healthcare workers with direct patient contact must be our number one priority. This includes physicians, nurses, allied professionals, and face-to-face/onsite healthcare interpreters whether or not they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are potentially COVID-19-positive.

    The Commissioners advise healthcare administrators and managers that face-to-face/onsite healthcare interpreters should be provided the same level of protection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as any healthcare provider for whom they are interpreting. We recognize that the PPE shortage may necessitate certain limiting measures in some facilities and locations. It is extremely important for managers to have transparent and honest conversations with interpreters and collectively come to an understanding when and to whom PPE is provided.

    Ultimately, if appropriate PPE is not available for an interpreter, then alternatives to face-to-face/onsite interpreting MUST be provided to both reduce the spread of the coronavirus by interpreters and ensure their personal safety. Unlike most healthcare providers, interpreters work in different departments, different facilities, and even different campuses throughout the day. Their inadequate protection will result in spreading the virus not only in the community and to their families, but also to other healthcare workers and patients within and outside a specific facility.

    CCHI recommends all hospitals, health systems, clinics, and healthcare providers deploy Remote Interpreting (RI) for most of their interactions with LEP patients and their families, as the primary modality for delivery of language access services in the time of this pandemic. We understand that implementation of RI cannot happen overnight and may require certain IT solutions as well as evaluation for compliance with laws and regulations. However, implementing RI will allow facilities to reserve much needed PPE for healthcare professionals who must be in direct contact with patients. Furthermore, face-to-face interpreters have a higher risk of becoming a vector of infection even with the appropriate use of PPE due to the mobility of their job.

    In situations when institutions are utilizing telemedicine/telehealth options for providing care, they need to incorporate RI into these solutions to ensure equal access to health care for LEP patients.

    Remote Interpreting may be implemented in the following ways:

    • Creating in-house RI call centers from where current staff interpreters interpret remotely via video or phone. In such call centers, proper distancing and cleaning protocols must be enforced to ensure safety of interpreters.
    • Equipping current staff interpreters with tools to interpret from home via a video application or phone.
    • Expanding utilization of, or contracting with, language service companies providing RI as part of their business model.

    Regardless of the method chosen, the facility must ensure that LEP patients are placed into rooms that have access to a phone or video device (tablet, computer monitor, TV screen) connected to the internet.

    CCHI also encourages all interpreters to closely work with their management to help ensure safety of everyone and continued equal access to health care for LEP patients. Together we will persevere. Thank you for your service!

    CCHI Commissioners

  • Testing Update on March 17. 2020

    March 17, 2020
    Washington, DC

    Dear certified interpreters, candidates, and all of our stakeholders,

    Within the past 24 hours, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued updated guidance on measures to be taken to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease.  In particular, the CDC lowered the number of people that should be able to congregate in the same space to 10.

    Given this new guidance, Prometric has determined it is necessary and appropriate to close the test centers in the United States and Canada for a period of 30 days, starting March 18. This dramatic step is necessary in order to comply with this new federal guidance as well as to further protect the health and well-being of the candidates and the staff that provide services at each of the testing locations.

    Prometric operations teams are actively reaching out to candidates with testing appointments today and throughout the closure period, in an effort to prevent them from unnecessarily appearing at the testing centers. Prometric’s staff will be rescheduling those impacted appointments into a new date after the planned re-opening and will be communicating that information to the impacted candidates. Prometric will be waiving any rescheduling fees.

    At this time, Prometric anticipates re-opening test centers for the CoreCHI™ “written” exams on April 16, however, please note that the specific date will depend on circumstances that are changing daily. All CCHI candidates are getting an automatic eligibility extension until 12/31/20.

    CCHI will assess the situation on April 16 and will advise all eligible candidates if the CHI™ oral exam testing will start on April 21 as has been planned earlier. At that time, we will also inform everyone about the ETOE Study status.

    CCHI is in conversation with our accrediting body NCCA to allow us an emergency testing at-home (remote) for the CoreCHI™ exams. At-home testing currently does not meet accreditation standards, so we cannot start it at our own. We will keep you updated about this situation.

    Thank you for your support and continued loyalty as we work together to ensure the safety, health and well-being of each other and those we serve.

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@cchicertification.org.

    CCHI Commissioners and staff

  • Update of March 10, 2020

    March 10, 2020
    Washington, DC

    Dear certified interpreters, candidates, and all of our stakeholders,

    We at CCHI are thinking of you. Many of you are on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic, and we are deeply grateful for your efforts towards keeping our communities healthy.

    We are going through challenging times as a country. At this moment, we can’t predict the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country and on healthcare system. Please follow universal precautions and disinfection guidelines from your workplaces, local authorities, and the CDC. Measures taken by the individuals such as hand washing and social distancing can have tremendously positive effect on our communities.

    Our testing vendor, Prometric, is taking all the necessary precautionary measures and will institute test center closures based on the local situation. All high-touch surfaces are cleaned after each exam by the test center staff. Candidates are also provided with disposable disinfectant wipes if they wish to additionally wipe common surfaces.

    You can find more information about Prometric’s test center procedures here: https://www.prometric.com/corona-virus-update.

    Thank you for your understanding and support.

    CCHI Commissioners and staff

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