Japanese government to name hospitals with interpreters
TOKYO — Aiming to boost the nation's readiness to treat foreign patients at medical institutions, the government will designate 10 hub hospitals that are staffed with a relatively large number of medical interpreters in the next fiscal year.
In the project, which is one of the measures to better deal with increasing numbers of foreign visitors and prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government first plans to designate 10 medical institutions across the nation as hub hospitals in fiscal 2015, then increase the number to 30 by 2020.
Medical interpreters — who are fluent in foreign languages and help doctors, nurses and foreign patients communicate well — will be intensively staffed at the hub hospitals.
With a growing number of foreign tourists coming to Japan, interpreters who have basic medical knowledge and are familiar with medical terms have become ever more important because their services can affect the health of foreign patients.
Currently, however, medical interpreters are trained only by local municipalities with many non-Japanese residents as well as nonprofit organizations. Because there is no official qualification for certification of such interpreters, the exact number of qualified medical interpreters has not been confirmed.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has formulated the nation's first unified standard for developing medical interpreters this year because such interpreters must also meet a certain standard of medical ethics, including respecting patients' privacy. The ministry's standard defines the minimal required ability and number of training hours, including on-the-job training, to become a medical interpreter.
Medical coordinators who guide foreigners and instruct them how to fill out forms will also be assigned to the hub hospitals.
The government also plans to create a system among designated and nearby nondesignated medical institutions so that medical coordinators can dispatch interpreters when a foreign patient visits a nondesignated medical institution.
The health ministry is arranging to designate hub medical institutions in government ordinance-designated cities and municipalities that have many foreign residents.
Currently, foreign patients pay expenses for medical interpreters out of pocket or the expenses are covered by hospitals or nonprofit organizations that train interpreters.
The government is arranging to allocate several hundred million yen in its fiscal 2015 budget to subsidize the hub medical institutions for the costs of medical interpreters and coordinators.
(c) 2014, The Yomiuri Shimbun.