'Do you even understand what I'm saying to you?': Michigan hospital turns away patient who speaks limited English

A patient with limited English proficiency was turned away from her MRI appointment at Bronson Battle Creek (Mich.) Hospital Dec 2. after staff told her there was not an interpreter available, according to USA Network affiliate the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Lal Puii, a Burmese speaker, took the day off work to go to her appointment. Her husband offered to translate, but family and friends cannot legally provide interpretation. Instead, staff gave Ms. Puii a note that directed her to reschedule the MRI and say she needed an interpreter.

"When I said, 'Call for a phone interpreter,' they said, 'They're not called a phone interpreter, they're called an iPad,'" Ms. Puii told the Battle Creek Enquirer with her sister-in-law translating. "Then they said, 'Do you even understand what I'm saying to you? Do you know what an iPad is?'"

Bronson Hospital provides on-site interpreters, phone interpretation services and remote video chat interpretation on an iPad, Beth Washington, Bronson Healthcare's vice president of community health, equity and inclusion, told the Battle Creek Enquirer. All language services are free and patients don't have to request accommodations in advance. 

After the incident, Thain Mawi, Ms. Puii's sister-in-law, filed a complaint with Bronson Hospital, the U.S. Department of Justice and HHS.  

"When I asked why she had been turned away this morning, the MRI scheduler said the Burma Center interpreters were not available, and that the request for a Burmese interpreter had gone to their junk mail," Ms. Mawi told the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The hospital launched an investigation as soon as it was made aware of the situation, Ms. Washington told the Battle Creek Enquirer. 

"We're really sorry that this happened, and we really work hard to be able to provide safe, equitable communication to our patients and families," Ms. Washington said. "Unfortunately in this situation, we didn't follow our processes and procedures that we have in place ... so we have some correction to make."  

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