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Ireland: HSE rolls out Emergency Multilingual Aid Box to all acute hospitals

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Miyadd qabtaa xanuun? – Do you have any pain? (Somali)

Trebuie s? v? trimit la raze. – I need to send you for an x-ray. (Romanian)

Tiene alergia a alguna medicación – Are you allergic to any medication? (Spanish)


These are just some of the common phrases HSE staff say to people who attend acute hospitals every day in Ireland.

The HSE has developed an Emergency Multilingual Aid (EMA) box which will assist frontline staff in communicating with patients with limited English proficiency who attend hospitals in acute or emergency situations. This resource is being rolled out in all 52 acute hospitals for the first time ever.

The EMA is a response to the significant demographic changes indicated in Census 2006, e.g. approximately 10 per cent of the Irish population now originates from other countries with people migrating to Ireland from 188 different countries.

The top ten of which are the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, USA, China, Germany, Phillippines, France and India.

Since the recession inward migration to Ireland has slowed down and some people may have left Ireland either to go home or migrated to another country. Nevertheless, Ireland is a multi cultural country and so we must ensure that our services can respond to the needs of the diversity of the population.

The boxes will be rolled out to all acute hospitals across the country and covers the most common questions and terms that staff may need to ask patients to make an initial assessment in acute/emergency situations.

The resource comprises a number of sections, including:

· Welcome Sheet

· Language Identification cards

· 20 multilingual phrasebooks in those languages presently identified as being most widely spoken in Irish hospitals viz. Irish, French, Polish, Czech, German, Bosnian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Pashtu, Somali and Urdu.

· "On Speaking Terms": A user manual containing guidelines for staff on accessing and using interpreters

· A CD containing digital versions of the contents of the EMA.

The questions have been developed and refined by staff working in frontline services and there is also a section which has patient led questions. The EMA is intended for use prior to or awaiting the arrival of an interpreter.

It is intended for use prior to requesting the services of an interpreter, or while awaiting their arrival.

Alice O’Flynn, Assistant National Director of Social Inclusion, HSE said: “The Emergency Multilingual Aid Box is a practical hands-on toolkit for staff in emergency and acute settings to help in communicating easily with patients with limited English proficiency. This will assist both practitioners and patients in a very practical and efficient way.”

“We have had a lot of interest in the EMA from our colleagues who deliver health care in the community, such as primary care teams (GPs, Public Health Nurses, dentists etc.), mental health and social workers where they would see many patients and service users who do not speak English as their first language. So the potential for the EMA to be adapted and used throughout the entire health care system is enormous. We’ve also had contact from some of our international counterparts who are interested in simulating the HSE EMA within their own health care systems” she added.

Ireland’s demographic changes are important for the HSE both in it’s delivery of health services and also in its role as a major employer of health and allied care staff. For example within the catchment area of one of the major Dublin hospitals there are 60 ethnic groupings, 25% of Emergency Department attendances are patients from ethnic minority backgrounds and their staff complement represent 42 different countries.

The EMA is not intended to replace a professional interpretation service.

The development of the EMA forms part of the implementation of the HSE's National Intercultural Health Strategy. It has been developed as a joint initiative of the Health Promoting Hospitals Network and the Social Inclusion Unit of the HSE.

All hospitals have identified key contact people to assist in the effective dissemination of the EMA. The EMA will be available in key areas in all hospitals e.g. emergency departments and maternity units.

Click here to read or download the EMA,

Spanish EMA,

HSE Language Centre,

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