Friday, 21 June 2013

Language barriers vs. reliable medical care abroad

An interesting blog title to say the least; particularly as the two elements don’t really seem to fit together all that well, if we are to take note of current headlines over the last couple of weeks.

First we had shock reports which told us horror stories of British holidaymakers who were being ripped off by some Spanish hospitals charging extortionate amounts of money for medical treatment that should be free. Then worse still, Britons are alleged to have been turned away from A&E if they didn’t have adequate travel insurance in place.  Next, came the consumer research that the top fear for Brits travelling abroad is ‘getting ill and ending up in a foreign hospital’ (understandably, given these stories). But most recently we read quite a shocking case (in the ‘wave’ of real-life example stories linked to this subject). This story was about a British citizen who fell ill while travelling in Italy with early signs of pneumonia and was subsequently stung with a huge medical bill for hospital care that they were led to believe would be at no additional cost (or at least, they understood this to be the case).

Interestingly, this story also told of a difficulty with the language barrier – namely that none of the doctors and nurses at the Italian hospital in question, spoke a word of English.  But this is one element of the story that is no great surprise to us here at i-interpret4u.  We know it to be true that once you move outside of the usual tourist hot spots the chances of communicating with locals who speak English is much less common. 

With that in mind, it’s no wonder people struggle with communication in foreign hospitals.  Unfortunately, in this kind of situation it is vital that we are able to understand what is happening to us.  The issue of medical treatment, operations, medicine, allergies and of course, the resulting bill – are all aspects that we’d benefit from being 100% clear on from the very start.  At the time, had the traveller who ended up in the Italian hospital been able to communicate with the doctors in a common language, it would have avoided much, if not all of the misunderstanding which caused the situation in which the varying parties find themselves currently.

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