TINTON FALLS — Until the mid-2010s, George and Linda Chen of Point Pleasant would make a point of traveling to New York City to see a Chinese-speaking doctor.
“Every time we see a doctor, it takes us all day,” George Chen said in Mandarin.
They then saw an advertisement for Chinese interpreting services within the RWJBarnabas Health system. This will allow them to conveniently take care of their health closer to home.
“We are so happy,” Linda Chen said in Mandarin. “I keep telling people that (interpreters) are very hardworking and they walk you through everything step by step.”
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The Chens, who have worked with Vivien O’Neill for nearly six years, called her for help finding specialists, scheduling appointments, filling out patient admission forms, talking to doctors and asking about billing issues.
“They’re busy, but they still help us,” said Linda Chen, who immigrated to the U.S. nearly 40 years ago. “Appointments, insurance, medicine.”
thousands of people helped
The Chinese Medical Project started in 2010 at the Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. It has since expanded to the Monmouth Medical Center South Campus in Lakewood and the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital campuses in New Brunswick, Hamilton and Somerset. The six-person interpretation team speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, Taishan dialect and other dialects as their mother tongue, and can translate professionally and proficiently into English.
According to Kathy Horan, public relations manager at Monmouth Medical Center, since 2010, more than 41,000 patients have contacted the Chinese medical program, and 12,700 of them have visited Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center South. campus.
Community-specific medical programs have been available to the Russian-speaking and Indian communities since the mid-2010s, and Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center South Campus have seen a combined 16,000 patients since its inception.
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Indian Health Plan is currently only scheduling appointments in Monmouth and Ocean counties as the health care chain looks to hire a new employee, said Stephanie Zou, regional director of community-specific health plans. Hindi and Gujarati interpretation services are available at the Somerset campus. She said that the Newark campus and the Livingston campus have their own independent Chinese courses. The New Brunswick campus offers African American and Hispanic medical programs.
In 2000, former President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13166, which authorized agencies receiving federal funding to assist individuals with limited English proficiency.
Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates five hospitals in Monmouth and Ocean counties, provides interpreter services upon request.
Interpreters can be provided by phone, video call or in person, according to Hackensack Meridian Health spokesman Eric Muench. In addition to interpreters for staff, the healthcare provider works with language services to “manage an average of 150 interpreter assignments per day across the network.”
He wrote in an email, “Effective communication is a patient’s right, and Hackensack Meridian Health’s language services are available for any communication needs a patient may have during their time with us and can be done when scheduling appointments, confirming insurance, etc. visits, and in important conversations related to patient care.”
For patients who need an on-site interpreter in a language other than the on-site interpreter, interpreters in 50 languages are available via video call, according to RWJBarnabas Health spokeswoman Tracey Benjamini. Additionally, Monmouth Medical Center has “dual headset phones that can translate 250 different languages and dialects,” she wrote in an email.
When the Chens visited Dr. Hiten Amin, who is affiliated with Monmouth Medical Center, at his office in Tinton Falls, O’Neill accompanied them through the initial check-in process and accompanied them through their appointments.
Dr. Amin said he likes that the interpreters provide real-time patient feedback.
“In the office, we’re teaching stuff, we’re explaining stuff,” Dr. Armin said. “There is value in (patients) asking questions and actually addressing any confusion.”
He said he has worked with interpreters to set up tests, imaging, follow-up appointments, call back labs and explain medication administration.
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Chinese Medical Program program coordinator Josephine Kam said the team was formed to meet the needs of the growing Chinese-speaking immigrant community.
“Maybe their English is fluent,” Zou said, “but if they go to the hospital, they’ll say … ‘I don’t know where to go, I don’t know (who) I need to talk to (with).'”
Some patients, who have doctorates and are experts in their fields, get lost in U.S. health care, she said. This leads patients to delay treatment until “something serious happens,” she said.
In addition to being a one-stop shop for Chinese-speaking patients, Zou said she is trying to educate the Chinese-speaking immigrant community about their services and what RWJBarnabas Health System can offer.
“We have a team,” she said. “We can support them. We’re always here for whatever they need.”
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influx of new patients
Tatiana Pidgainy of the Russian Medical Project said her team supports the Russian-speaking community, including immigrants from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and she said she has seen an influx of new patients in the last year.
“We help them find the best doctor based on their insurance,” Pidgainy said. “We’re still staying (during surgery), the day after surgery, connecting with families, taking care of medications. Of course, we do a lot of outreach.”
Linda Chan described O’Neill and the team as family. She showed a text message from O’Neill reminding her of the date.
“We are really very grateful,” Chen said.
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Olivia Liu is a reporter covering transportation, Red Bank and Simonmouth counties. She can be reached at email@example.com.