If you speak English, Arabic or Russian and are confounded by forms and other documents and services in the health system that appear only in Hebrew, relief will come, gradually, within two years.
Israeli Health Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu, adopting the ideal of “cultural competence” that has become the rule in the US and many other countries, issued a directive on Monday explaining new language requirements for the health system.
“There is no doubt that coping with different cultures and languages is one of the most important challenges faced by the health system,” Gamzu said.
Among the documents are forms for payment, rights of patients, information on violence in the family, informed consent before undergoing treatments and surgery, health promotion and disease prevention. Websites of the health funds and other service providers will have to be translated into the other languages as well.
The director-general added that medical staffers who were in contact with people from lingual and cultural minorities would have to undergo special training to familiarize themselves with the people’s languages and backgrounds so they could communicate with them.
The National Health Insurance Law of 1994, which sets down the right to universal access to services and a proper standard of care for all Israeli residents, is the basis for establishing cultural competency, Gamzu said.
The requirements will be in effect not only in hospitals, but also in health fund clinics and public health facilities such as well-baby (tipat halav) stations.
Translations will be supplemented by medical interpreters or foreignlanguage speakers and immigrants called “bridgers,” who can translate over the phone in real time what a doctor or nurse says in Hebrew into other languages, and vice versa for the patient. Information services must provide someone who can communicate over the telephone in the other languages within 24 hours of requests, the directive says.