The Health Ministry has opened an experimental, simultaneous, medical
translation service that will link doctors, nurses, social workers and patients
who speak Arabic, Russian and Amharic.
The pilot service, available 24
hours a day except for Shabbat and holidays, will initially be in a limited
number of departments at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Western Galilee
Hospital in Nahariya and Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, in some units of
Kupat Holim Meuhedet and in a number of the Health Ministry’s family health
centers (tipot halav) in Ramle.
The patients themselves will not call the
service, but hospital personnel will be intermediaries who will dial the
translation service and contact native speakers of the language needed. If
proven successful, the service will be expanded to outpatient clinics, inpatient
departments and other parts of hospitals and community clinics around the
The ministry will not provide the phone number to patients or
allow them to call from home.
“We are trying to develop tools that will
give greater accessibility to people who don’t speak Hebrew [or English],” said
the ministry’s Nir Kedar, who is developing the service.
have undergone a special course with medical translation experts and have been
provided with basic medical dictionaries in their native tongue that they can
use to translate from and into Hebrew.
Kedar would not say when the
service will be fully expanded to medical facilities around the
According to a social survey conducted in 2011 by the Central
Bureau of Statistics, 17 percent of those who do not speak fluent Hebrew have
difficulty receiving medical services. Among people aged 65 and older, the rate
of difficulty due to language barriers reached 23 percent.
director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that failure to provide translation when
a patient needs it or translation by an adult – or even a child – who is not
trained for it is unacceptable.