The ground-breaking achievements and contributions of the state's health care interpreters over the past 40 years was celebrated at a special event at NSW Parliament House.
The NSW Health Care Interpreter Service is provided free to charge to all culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients - including the Deaf - to enable them and their health care providers to communicate effectively with each other regarding health care.
Professional, accredited interpreters assist patients to understand their diagnosis and treatment options and to enable them to have input into their care plans.
The service began in the mid-1970s following a huge influx of non-English speaking migrants to Australia.
From the appointment of four inaugural interpreters based in Camperdown in 1977, health care interpreting has become firmly embedded in the health system.
Interpreting is now available in more than 160 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across NSW.
More than 260,000 interpreting sessions were provided last financial year in hospitals and community based locations, and in patients’ homes.
The Chief Executive of Sydney Local Health District, Dr Teresa Anderson, said health services can be daunting places - and often times patients are at their most vulnerable.
“Interpreters remove the added complication of a language barrier, allowing the patient and clinicians to work effectively together to achieve the best health outcome.”
The service’s Spanish interpreter, Angela Lukas, has worked for the service since it began 40 years ago.
She interprets for a diverse group of patients including tourists who have a heart attack on holidays, pregnant women during their antenatal care and dementia patients who revert to their native language as their cognitive ability declines.
“Family members or children may not understand the terminology involved and in some cases family members have omitted information on purpose because he or she doesn’t want their relative to be concerned,” Ms Lukas said.
“The health care provider has no way of knowing that information has been omitted. A health care Interpreter is trained to interpret everything that is said.”
Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir launched a coffee table book The NSW Health Care Interpreter Service: The First Forty Years to mark the occasion.
View the video online at www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/media/Videos.html and for more information, go to www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/interpreters/.