U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Contact: Kathleen O'Brien
Maine Medical Center
Contact: Wayne Clark
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 17, 2000
MAINE MEDICAL CENTER AND HHS SIGN NEW
AGREEMENT ON MULTICULTURAL CARE
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office
for Civil Rights (OCR) and Maine Medical Center (MMC) have signed a new agreement regarding the hospital's provision of interpreters and other language assistance for limited English speaking patients and their families. The voluntary agreement replaces an earlier agreement between MMC and OCR.
The agreement reaffirms MMC's historic commitment to comply with HHS regulations
under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Hill-Burton program.
MMC has and will contine to provide interpreters and other language assistance
for limited English proficient (LEP) persons, at no cost to them, as necessary
for effective communication in connection with their treatment, so that LEP
persons are not excluded from or denied equal access to any of MMC's services.
"Maine Medical Center has chosen to be a national leader in addressing the communication needs of its patients and their families," said Vincent S. Conti, President and Chief Executive Officer of Maine Medical Center, "and we are very proud of that fact. Our staff goes beyond what we believe the law requires in reaching out to, welcoming, and caring for our non-English speaking population."
"Multicultural care is about more than language, and our staff has a long history of working hard to find creative solutions to the challenges posed by our region's increasing multicultural composition. Our International Clinic was begun many years ago as a response to this change, for instance, and has played a leading role in meeting the healthcare needs of our diverse population."
"Ensuring that limited English proficient persons have meaningful access to
health and human services is one of OCR's national priorities," said Thomas
E. Perez, the Director of HHS' Office for Civil Rights. "The agreement we are
signing with Maine Medical Center will provide that access. The agreement includes
the elements of an effective language assistance program that could serve as
a model for other health and social service providers. We will continue to work
with the hospital and other HHS-assisted programs, community agencies and advocates
on this issue."
The agreement includes a revised MMC policy on communication with LEP persons by all staff with patient contact responsibilities. The policy provides detailed guidance for MMC staff, including instructions about informing LEP persons of their right to interpreter services in the appropriate language. MMC will print a number of English language notices and forms, including "What If I Don't Speak English", in the languages most commonly spoken by LEP persons who seek services at MMC facilities. Currently, those languages are Farsi, Khmer, Russian, Serbo-Croatian (Cyrillic and Roman alphabets), Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.
The agreement also describes additional training of MMC personnel, the role of MMC's Coordinator of Interpreter Services in responding to questions, concerns and complaints about the adequacy or availability of interpreters services at MMC facilities, and the use of an independent consultant to review MMC's programs in 2002 and 2004.
"We hope that this agreement will serve as a model for other hospitals," Conti
said. "We have always been a leader in our community and in our industry in
accommodating the needs of people from different cultures, and we are proud
of our accomplishments and our ability to reach further with this new agreement."