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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

NARH Prepared For Race, Ethnicity Info Collection

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, December 18, 2006

Deborah Bielanksi, NBH Corporate Director of Patient Financial Services
North Adams - Admissions employees at the North Adams Regional Hospitals are undergoing a week-long training meant to ease transition to new hospital questions that will be posed to patients as of Jan. 1.

Several questions about race, ethnicity, and language will be a standard part of the hospital in-patient and Emergency Department admissions process on that date, said Northern Berkshire Healthcare Corporate Director of Patient Financial Services Deborah Bielanski during a press conference today.

Under new regulations issued by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, all state acute care hospitals must ask for the information, however, patients are not mandated to provide the information, she said.

During an interview with iberkshires.com last week, state DHCFP
Clinical Advisor Judy Parlato said that the information gathered will be provided to the federal Agency of Healthcare, Research and Quality as that agency attempts to identify healthcare disparities and possible catalysts for any disparities.

[to view last week's interview, click here: www.iberkshires.com/story.php?story_id=21802 ]

Parlato and Bielanski emphasized that the information will not be provided to the U.S. Department of Immigration.

Bielanski noted that different cultures perceive specific, common gestures and phrases differently, and some populations could be offended by common "Americanisms." Women from certain cultures may have great difficulty communicating with male physicians or nurses about female-based health concerns or issues involving domestic violence, and these circumstances and similar situations may account for some health care service disparities, she noted.

The gathering of racial and ethnic information could help ease the issues, she said.

Currently, NBH firms, including the hospital, use a national electronic translation/interpretation service to deal with language barriers, Bielanski said. The service relies on human telephone interpreters and over translation of 150 languages is available through the service, she said.

The training sessions involve role-playing as well as sensitivity training. Bielanski said that she completed the training during a seminar offered by state officials and members of the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

"The training is very good and very thorough," she said."This is a learning process for everyone.'

Race and ethnicity questions will be asked as part of the admissions process, she said.

Bielanksi said the hospital supports the new policy because of the need to understand various cultures and assure that all people receive quality healthcare. The Berkshires does host a diverse population, she said, and cited the diversity at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Williams College, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

"We want everybody to get quality healthcare," she said.

Informational fliers and brochures about the new protocol will be available to patients at the hospital.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
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