PATIENTS are being denied access to interpreters at Northern Health in cutbacks that doctors warn will put patients at risk, Kate Hagan reports in The Age today.
The interpreters' union – the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia – said interpreters were being cancelled for dozens of patients each day in cost-saving measures that began a couple of weeks ago.
The Age has been told Northern Health wants to cut about 7000 interpreting appointments over the next year, which equates to 16 per cent of its total 43,202 interpreter requests in 2011.
About one in five of the health network's patients need an interpreter, including at the Northern Hospital in Epping and the Broadmeadows and Craigieburn health services.
The Australian Medical Association's Victorian president, Dr Stephen Parnis, said interpreters were vital to obtain informed consent from patients and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes due to miscommunication.
''When interpreters stand beside you and convey your words to a patient and a patient's words to you, that's an indispensable part of clinical care,'' he said.
''It's a big issue and we do have serious concerns if the quality and amount of those services are being cut back.''
APESMA Victoria director Bede Payne said slashing interpreting services would lead to errors and ultimately increase costs to the health service.
Listen to an interview with ABC 774's Libby Gore and interpreter Moreno Giovannoni on the important work interpreters do.