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Emergency departments should offer immigrants translation, according to a study

This release is also available in Spanish.

The study, carried out in the Department of Medicine at the University of Granada, consisted of an analysis of health services provided to immigrants in accident and emergency departments in Spanish hospitals. The researchers concluded that, in addition to other measures, there is a need to create an immigrant treatment working party, establish a direct telephone link with a 24h translation service or provide sociocultural mediator services. This research, which was conducted by Francisco Manuel Parrilla Ruiz, from the Department of Medicine at the University of Granada, and directed by lecturer Francisco Javier Gmez Jimnez and Antonio Crdenas Cruz (a specialist in Intensive Care Medicine), was carried out at Almera's Hospital de Poniente Accident and Emergency Department. This is a region where many immigrants live and work in the agricultural sector, and is therefore characterised by its special sociodemographic features. Hence, the profile of an immigrant attending this centre is that of a 26-year-old North African born male, with a low level of education. He is usually accompanied by a fellow countryman who acts as an interpreter. Almost all these immigrants work in the agricultural sector and go to the health centre because of common colds, bone and muscular pain or non-surgical abdominal pain. Parrilla Ruiz underlines that during the period of the study one year 28% of patients treated were immigrants, although this figure can be extrapolated to other regions of Spain.

Minor problems

The researcher stresses that most consultations for foreigners at Accident and Emergency Departments are due to minor health problems (priority 3 or non-hospital cases) and their admission rate is much lower than admission rates for the native population. His work shows details, such as the most frequent consultation reason during Ramadan, which is epigastralgia (a disorder related to excessive consumption of food after prolonged fasting), or the drop of more than 70% in the number of immigrants treated during the religious festival of Eid ul-Adha (Sacrifice Day).

Among the measures suggested by scientists from the University of Granada to improve medical care for immigrants are the compilation of a single vocabulary in different languages, which covers words foreigners use the most when completing the anamnesis (personal, hereditary and family details which the patient must provide in order to complete his/her medical record). Doctor Parrilla states that, it is strongly advisable that the Accident and Emergency Department and MIR medical staff (resident members of the medical staff of a hospital, usually recent medical school graduates working under supervision) attend specific training courses in order to attend to immigrants.

According to the results of this research, most of the medical staff working at Accident and Emergency Departments consider that immigration has a direct influence on welfare overload. They also think that language barriers, lack of understanding of the health system, cultural differences and the ignorance of endemic diseases are the main problems in the assistance of foreigners.


Contact: Francisco Manuel Parrilla Ruiz
Universidad de Granada

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