Letters 08-03-2000

Tongue Depressor, and Life With Father

Tongue Depressor

TL: We are writing in response to the article "Critical Connection" (Amanda Scioscia, June 29). As caregivers in a community rich in cultural diversity, we were outraged and disappointed in the erroneous, inaccurate and slanted image presented of our emergency department and its staff. The best that can be said is that your reporter, Amanda Scioscia, may well be guilty of journalistic malpractice.

Phoenix Memorial is a nonprofit hospital with its beginnings in a community where babies were born in the cardboard houses of migrant workers -- in a community no one else was willing to serve. We have been proudly helping people in need for more than 65 years. We established the first interracial nursing school west of the Mississippi; the first outpatient clinic for indigent children; and a multitude of school-based health centers in our neediest school districts, often the only health care that youngsters at these schools receive. We are also blessed to serve the Hispanic community and, notwithstanding your reporter's bad reporting, have managed to do so for more than half a century.

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We have continued to grow in the community and change with its needs, and earlier this year developed a synergistic program to enhance the delivery of care in a culturally sensitive manner. This program is known as Dynamic Resources. Your reporter's article danced right over this program and, quite evidently, Ms. Scioscia chose not to cover this program and report on it in the detail it was given to her. In fact, since this program's inception in February, Dynamic Resources has provided more than 750 medical interpretations.

In addition to responding to requests for medical interpretations, the translators have completed 500 visits just to see how our Spanish-speaking patients are doing. It is estimated that the interpreters will conduct at least 2,000 medical visits and more than 1,000 "social" visits by December 2000.

Your reporter wrote that the ER staff did not mention the translator service, but by her own reporting, stated that the doctor and certain staff spoke Spanish; thus they would not need to use the service. The article further stated that the multilingual telephone service was only used twice a month, leaving the false impression that we just don't care about serving the language needs of our Spanish-speaking patients. In fact, because we do care and because we feel it is in the best interest of the patient to speak face to face via translator, whether staff or volunteer, we use the phone as a last resort.

Your article is an affront to staff and volunteers alike, many of whom realize that we, not our patients, need to learn a new language. Though not all of us are proficient or completely fluent in Spanish, we try, and our patients appreciate our efforts very much. If we feel our message is not understood, we make every effort to provide face-to-face, caring communication through another colleague, volunteer or interpreter.

With respect to the one nurse who was quoted, who works only two shifts a month and who evidently is not knowledgeable about Dynamic Resources (which may be our problem) -- isn't it curious that the only nurse quoted was the nurse who is very rarely even in the emergency department? Certainly makes one wonder if your article, at least as it related to Phoenix Memorial, was written before any visit to the hospital.

While the article did call attention to issues and challenges facing the Hispanic community, they are challenges faced by all hospitals, not just in our state, but across the nation. We at Phoenix Memorial have been and continue to be innovative in our desire and our actions to meet them. We have been serving the south Phoenix community and the Valley since 1934 with pride and in a culturally sensitive manner.

Your reporter was quite obviously searching for a sensational story and, in the process, needlessly insulted the nurses, doctors, technicians, support staff and volunteers of the Phoenix Memorial emergency department. This is a shame for her, for your newspaper and for the community. Next time perhaps she should pick on those who don't care.

Laurie Hawk, Joan E. Olcott, Katherine Smith, Teresa Martinez, Raquel Gutierrez, Chris Vincent, Rebecca Stewart, Mary O'Connell, Doris Kacmamli, Bonnie Verdugo, Lois Nyomar, Pat Beaman
Phoenix Memorial Hospital

Amanda Scioscia responds: The story was not written prior to a New Times visit to Phoenix Memorial ER, but the visit did help shape the theme of the article. The Spanish-speaking triage nurse quoted was the only triage person on duty during the visit and was quoted because she had personally witnessed miscommunications. None of the nurses or doctors interviewed that night made mention of Dynamic Resources when asked how they accommodate patients who don't speak English. Later, a hospital official provided information on the interpreter program -- but not usage numbers -- and described it as funded by a grant that runs out in December. The article mentions several hospitals besides Phoenix Memorial that face struggles with interpretation services.

Life With Father

Steeple chaste: Wow, what a compelling story ("Immaculate Heartbreak," Gilbert Garcia and Laura Laughlin, July 27). Born and raised a Catholic, I have found the antics and double life of the clergy to be deplorable.

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