At Gouverneur Hospital for Covid Testing, but Where are the Chinese Translators?

Posted on: February 1st, 2021 at 5:04 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

While on line last week for another Covid test at the Medlabs pop-up on Mott Street, I struck up conversation with several elderly women and discovered the testing site at the nearby Gouverneur Hospital lacked sufficient translation staff.

Feeling this unacceptable, I decided to go undercover. A few days later, I took the risk; I double-masked and made my way to the Madison Street hospital.

The line upon my arrival didn’t match the local chatter about hour-long wait times. Mine was a shorter than normal line, during which staffers were dispatched to ascertain who they thought had symptoms or were exposed.

One particular nurse came to me, and as I spoke Chinese with heavy accent, she walked right past.  It took another ten minutes before she returned with a form in Chinese. Yet, I still wondered if there would be language translation available inside during the registration.

They then shuttled me to a plexiglass-partitioned table where I handed my completed form. At that moment, I looked around and didn’t see a Chinese or Asian staffer in sight. There were many Chinese who didn’t speak English, and used hand gestures to communicate with the staff. Eventually I was given a sticker with a bar code and told to go out to a testing window where I was swabbed.

Even though the staff on duty was extremely helpful and courteous, I still left with mixed feelings.

This whole experience mirrors the lack of translation service for vaccination appointments, which I just wrote about.

I cannot believe a city-run agency operating a testing hub for the Lower East Side and Chinatown did not make provisions to have Chinese language interpreter on staff and hope they will make adjustments in the future to add language access.

The ongoing pandemic has ravaged our neighborhood and city and elected officials all encourage frequent testing to keep ourselves and our families safe but lack of translation services discourage and turn many away from this practice. The mayor touts “equity in treatment” but has yet to show it.

I always say “If you talk the talk, walk the walk.”

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