(a) (1) The Legislature finds and declares that California is becoming
a land of people whose languages and cultures give the state a global
quality. The Legislature further finds and declares that access to basic
health care services is the right of every resident of the state, and
that access to information regarding basic health care services is an
essential element of that right.
(2) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature that when language or
communication barriers exist between patients and the staff of any general
acute care hospital, arrangements shall be made for interpreters or bilingual
professional staff to ensure adequate and speedy communication between
patients and staff.
(b) As used in this section:
(1) “Interpreter” means a person fluent in English and in the
necessary second language, who can accurately speak, read, and readily
interpret the necessary second language, or a person who can accurately
sign and read sign language. Interpreters shall have the ability to translate
the names of body parts and to describe competently symptoms and injuries
in both languages. Interpreters may include members of the medical or
(2) “Language or communication barriers” means:
(A) With respect to spoken language, barriers that are experienced by individuals
who are limited-English-speaking or non-English-speaking individuals who
speak the same primary language and who comprise at least 5 percent of
the population of the geographical area served by the hospital or of the
actual patient population of the hospital. In cases of dispute, the state
department shall determine, based on objective data, whether the 5 percent
population standard applies to a given hospital.
(B) With respect to sign language, barriers that are experienced by individuals
who are deaf and whose primary language is sign language.
(c) To ensure access to health care information and services for limited-English-speaking
or non-English-speaking residents and deaf residents, licensed general
acute care hospitals shall:
(1) Review existing policies regarding interpreters for patients with limited-English
proficiency and for patients who are deaf, including the availability
of staff to act as interpreters.
(2) (A) (i) Adopt and review annually a policy for providing language assistance
services to patients with language or communication barriers. The policy
shall include procedures for providing, to the extent possible, as determined
by the hospital, the use of an interpreter whenever a language or communication
barrier exists, except when the patient, after being informed of the availability
of the interpreter service, chooses to use a family member or friend who
volunteers to interpret. The procedures shall be designed to maximize
efficient use of interpreters and minimize delays in providing interpreters
to patients. The procedures shall ensure, to the extent possible, as determined
by the hospital, that interpreters are available, either on the premises
or accessible by telephone, 24 hours a day.
(ii) The hospital shall, on or before July 1, 2016, and every January 1
thereafter, make the updated policy and a notice of availability of language
assistance services available to the public on its Internet Web site.
The notice shall be in English and in the other languages most commonly
spoken in the hospital’s service area. For purposes of this paragraph,
the hospital shall make the notice available in the language of individuals
who meet the definition of having a language barrier pursuant to subparagraph
(A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b); however, a hospital is not required
to make the notice available in more than five languages other than English.
(B) (i) The hospital shall, on or before July 1, 2016, and every January
1 thereafter, transmit to the department a copy of the updated policy
and shall include a description of its efforts to ensure adequate and
speedy communication between patients with language or communication barriers
(ii) The department shall make the updated policy available to the public
on its Internet Web site.
(3) Develop, and post in conspicuous locations, notices that advise patients
and their families of the availability of interpreters, the procedure
for obtaining an interpreter and the telephone numbers where complaints
may be filed concerning interpreter service problems, including, but not
limited to, a T.D.D. number for the hearing impaired. The notices shall
be posted, at a minimum, in the emergency room, the admitting area, the
entrance, and in outpatient areas. Notices shall inform patients that
interpreter services are available upon request, shall list the languages
for which interpreter services are available, shall instruct patients
to direct complaints regarding interpreter services to the state department,
and shall provide the local address and telephone number of the state
department, including, but not limited to, a T.D.D. number for the hearing impaired.
(4) Identify and record a patient’s primary language and dialect
on one or more of the following: patient medical chart, hospital bracelet,
bedside notice, or nursing card.
(5) Prepare and maintain as needed a list of interpreters who have been
identified as proficient in sign language and in the languages of the
population of the geographical area serviced who have the ability to translate
the names of body parts, injuries, and symptoms.
(6) Notify employees of the hospital’s commitment to provide interpreters
to all patients who request them.
(7) Review all standardized written forms, waivers, documents, and informational
materials available to patients upon admission to determine which to translate
into languages other than English.
(8) Consider providing its nonbilingual staff with standardized picture
and phrase sheets for use in routine communications with patients who
have language or communication barriers.
(9) Consider developing community liaison groups to enable the hospital
and the limited-English-speaking and deaf communities to ensure the adequacy
of the interpreter services.
(d) Noncompliance with this section shall be reportable to licensing authorities.
(e) Section 1290 shall not apply to this section.