It’s been hectic. My mother came to town. We prepared for the first seder. I fought a cold. My mother cooked a wonderful brisket, matzoh ball soup, kugel, etc. We went over to the home of Fanya and Vartan, Sophia’s mother and step-father. After the meal, Fanya had pains in her heart. It was hurting her so much, that we called 911. An ambulance came and she he was brought to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room. We sat in the waiting room for hours. Tomorrow, Fanya is going to get an angioplasty on her heart and liver. Wish her good luck!
Now for some bitching about the hospital:
Cedars-Sinai is a world-famous hospital. Its proximity to Beverly Hills has made it famous as the “hospital for the stars.” This is where Hollywood celebrities have their babies. Frank Sinatra died at Cedars-Sinai. Movie producers have their names on hospital wings. So, why do Sophia’s parents always get poor service at Cedars-Sinai Hospital?
Because of the language barrier.
They are an older couple who can only speak Russian. Now, I’m all for immigrants learning English, but after a certain age, it is just too difficult a task. Sophia often works in court as an interpreter, where every defendant who needs it is guaranteed BY LAW to have a language interpreter, and from what I understand, it is the same with every hospital patient. Cedars-Sinai says that they have interpreters on staff. So, why are so rarely used?
I was sitting in Fanya’s ICU hospital room this morning. Sophia left to get some paperwork for her mom. I noticed that the reading on the EKG monitor was at zero. I told this to the nurse, a grouchy woman who looked like she came from another country herself.
“Don’t move your right arm!” she told Fanya. “It makes the monitor shut off.”
“She doesn’t understand what you are saying,” I said. “She doesn’t speak English.”
“NO ARM UP!” the nurse yelled at Fanya, lying there with tubes stuck inside her arms, as if that was going to solve the problem.
“Don’t you have a Russian interpreter on call or on the phone?” I asked.
“She’s not here now. Don’t you know Russian?”
“No, and I don’t think it is my job to be translating for the hospital. When will there be a interpreter?”
“Let me go see.”
She left and I never saw her again.
The entire day has been one mistake after another. Fanya is a slight woman. She had lost 25 pounds in the last 6 months. She was put on a restricted calorie diet! The staff didn’t bring Fanya any food until 3:30 PM because they “thought” there was an order not to give her food. Then she never got dinner. After Sophia spoke to 5 people, they eventually brought her, a diabetic, four juices and Melba toast with cheese, at 10 PM. They gave her pills for diabetes with orange juice! This is just poor medicine, but had Fanya been able to communicate – she would have been able to point their mistakes out, before they made her drink sugary juice with a pill to lower her blood sugar! It is scary enough to be in a hospital. It must be terrifying for a patient to be there and not understand the language of the staff, and Sophia can’t be there 24 hours a day. Sophia told the nurses they can call her anytime to help with the Russian, but no one ever called. God help the person who has to go into the hospital without having a family or friends to speak up for her!
When Fanya first came to the hospital, a male nurse was trying to figure out what was wrong with another Russian patient, a disheveled elderly man who was sobbing. The nurse was poking the man in different places on his shoulder trying to figure out what pained him.
“Baleet? Baleet?” the male nurse asked, using the only Russian word he knew, meaning “pain.”
Eventually, Sophia asked if she could help. She spoke to the guy in Russian and learned that he wasn’t in physical pain, but emotional pain. His grandson had just died, so he drank himself into a stupor, and his family didn’t know what to do with him, so they drove him at the hospital. With three Russian families in the emergency room, wouldn’t it make sense to have an interpreter readily available?
Cedars-Sinai built a a major new building last year. It cost millions of dollars. The medical center has the best equipment, which must cost a fortune. But would it really cost that much more to have a few more interpreters? The hospital doesn’t need to have an interpreter for every language on duty 24/7, but Cedars-Sinai is smack in the middle of the major Russian and Persian communities of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Many of these are elderly people who don’t speak the English, and they end up getting less than mediocre medical care in a supposedly top-notch hospital. There are Spanish interpreters in most city hospitals. There are Korean-speaking interpreters in mid-city hospitals. Why is Cedars-Sinai so stingy with their interpreters? Have a donor put his name on the interpreters’ uniforms if it would help get more money!
I know Cedars-Sinai would rather be known as the “hospital of the stars” and promote all the A-list actors who go there after drug rehab. I understand that UCLA Medical Center is stealing some of the “celebrity cache” from Cedars since it is located in the less immigrant friendly, more upscale Westside (oh no, Britney had her baby there!). The truth is Cedars-Sinai is now more of a “city hospital,” which means catering to the immigrant community. Sure, it must be an annoyance for the busy, overworked staff to deal with foreign-speaking patients (unless, of course, the patient is a member of some Royal family), but shouldn’t effective communication be an essential part of medical care?
Update: Fanya is doing better. More complaining about Cedars.