Amended in Senate June 2, 2015

Amended in Assembly April 9, 2015

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 389


Introduced by Assembly Member Chau

February 18, 2015


An act to amend Section 1259 of, and to add Section 128731 to, the Health and Safety Code, relating to health facilities.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 389, as amended, Chau. Hospitals: language assistance services.

(1) begin deleteUnder existing law, the State Department of Public Health licenses and regulates general acute care hospitals, as defined. end deletebegin insertExisting law provides for the licensure and regulation by the State Department of Public Health of health facilities, including general acute care hospitals. A violation of these provisions is a crime.end insertbegin insert end insertExisting law requires those hospitals to adopt and review annually a policy for providing language assistance services to patients with language or communication barriers, as defined. Existing law requires a hospital to annually transmit to the department a copy of its updated policy and to include a description of its efforts to ensure adequate and speedy communication between patients with language or communication barriers and staff.

This bill would require a general acute care hospital and the department to make the hospital’s updated policy available to the public on their respective Internet Web sites. The bill would also require a general acute care hospital to post on its Internet Web site a notice, in English and up to the 5 other most commonly spoken languages in the hospital’s service area, of the availability of language assistance services. The bill would also, if another technology emerges that replaces Internet Web sites, require the department, by regulation, to require a general acute care hospital to make its updated policy available through that subsequent technology. The bill would also require the department to make that policy available through that new technology.begin insert Because a violation of these provisions by a health facility would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local programend insertbegin insert.end insert

(2) Existing law creates the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, prescribes the office’s powers and duties, and designates the office as the single state agency to collect specified data from health facilities and clinics for use by all state agencies.

This bill would require a general acute care hospital to annually file with the office the policy described in (1) above for providing language assistance services to patients with language or communication barriers. The bill would require the office to make that policy available to the public on the office’s Internet Web site or through a subsequent technology that replaces Internet Web sites.

begin insert

(3) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

end insert
begin insert

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

end insert

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: begin deleteno end deletebegin insertyesend insert.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1

SECTION 1.  

Section 1259 of the Health and Safety Code is
2amended to read:

3

1259.  

(a) (1) The Legislature finds and declares that California
4is becoming a land of people whose languages and cultures give
5the state a global quality. The Legislature further finds and declares
6that access to basic health care services is the right of every resident
7of the state, and that access to information regarding basic health
8care services is an essential element of that right.

9(2) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature that when
10language or communication barriers exist between patients and
11the staff of any general acute care hospital, arrangements shall be
P3    1made for interpreters or bilingual professional staff to ensure
2adequate and speedy communication between patients and staff.

3(b)  As used in this section:

4(1)  “Interpreter” means a person fluent in English and in the
5necessary second language, who can accurately speak, read, and
6readily interpret the necessary second language, or a person who
7can accurately sign and read sign language. Interpreters shall have
8the ability to translate the names of body parts and to describe
9competently symptoms and injuries in both languages. Interpreters
10may include members of the medical or professional staff.

11(2)  “Language or communication barriers” means:

12(A)  With respect to spoken language, barriers that are
13experienced by individuals who are limited-English-speaking or
14non-English-speaking individuals who speak the same primary
15language and who comprise at least 5 percent of the population of
16the geographical area served by the hospital or of the actual patient
17population of the hospital. In cases of dispute, the state department
18shall determine, based on objective data, whether the 5 percent
19population standard applies to a given hospital.

20(B)  With respect to sign language, barriers that are experienced
21by individuals who are deaf and whose primary language is sign
22language.

23(c)  To ensure access to health care information and services
24for limited-English-speaking or non-English-speaking residents
25and deaf residents, licensed general acute care hospitals shall:

26(1)  Review existing policies regarding interpreters for patients
27with limited-English proficiency and for patients who are deaf,
28including the availability of staff to act as interpreters.

29(2)  (A) (i) Adopt and review annually a policy for providing
30language assistance services to patients with language or
31communication barriers. The policy shall include procedures for
32providing, to the extent possible, as determined by the hospital,
33the use of an interpreter whenever a language or communication
34barrier exists, except when the patient, after being informed of the
35availability of the interpreter service, chooses to use a family
36member or friend who volunteers to interpret. The procedures shall
37be designed to maximize efficient use of interpreters and minimize
38delays in providing interpreters to patients. The procedures shall
39ensure, to the extent possible, as determined by the hospital, that
P4    1interpreters are available, either on the premises or accessible by
2telephone, 24 hours a day.

3(ii) The hospital shall make the updated policy and a notice of
4availability of language assistance services available to the public
5on its Internet Web site. The notice shall be in English and up to
6the five other languages most commonly spoken in the hospital’s
7service area. If another technology emerges that takes the place of
8Internet Web sites, the state department shall direct the hospital,
9by regulations adopted pursuant to the rulemaking procedures of
10the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with
11Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government
12Code), to make the information required pursuant to this section
13available through the subsequent technology.

14(B) (i) The hospital shall annually transmit to the department
15a copy of the updated policy and shall include a description of its
16efforts to ensure adequate and speedy communication between
17patients with language or communication barriers and staff.

18(ii) The department shall make the updated policy available to
19the public on its Internet Web site. If another technology emerges
20that replaces Internet Web sites, the department shall make the
21information required pursuant to this section available through
22that subsequent technology.

23(3)  Develop, and post in conspicuous locations, notices that
24advise patients and their families of the availability of interpreters,
25the procedure for obtaining an interpreter and the telephone
26numbers where complaints may be filed concerning interpreter
27service problems, including, but not limited to, a T.D.D. number
28for the hearing impaired. The notices shall be posted, at a
29minimum, in the emergency room, the admitting area, the entrance,
30and in outpatient areas. Notices shall inform patients that interpreter
31services are available upon request, shall list the languages for
32which interpreter services are available, shall instruct patients to
33direct complaints regarding interpreter services to the state
34department, and shall provide the local address and telephone
35number of the state department, including, but not limited to, a
36T.D.D. number for the hearing impaired.

37(4)  Identify and record a patient’s primary language and dialect
38on one or more of the following: patient medical chart, hospital
39bracelet, bedside notice, or nursing card.

P5    1(5)  Prepare and maintain as needed a list of interpreters who
2have been identified as proficient in sign language and in the
3languages of the population of the geographical area serviced who
4have the ability to translate the names of body parts, injuries, and
5symptoms.

6(6)  Notify employees of the hospital’s commitment to provide
7interpreters to all patients who request them.

8(7)  Review all standardized written forms, waivers, documents,
9and informational materials available to patients upon admission
10to determine which to translate into languages other than English.

11(8)  Consider providing its nonbilingual staff with standardized
12picture and phrase sheets for use in routine communications with
13patients who have language or communication barriers.

14(9)  Consider developing community liaison groups to enable
15the hospital and the limited-English-speaking and deaf communities
16to ensure the adequacy of the interpreter services.

17(d)  Noncompliance with this section shall be reportable to
18licensing authorities.

19(e)  Section 1290 shall not apply to this section.

20

SEC. 2.  

Section 128731 is added to the Health and Safety Code,
21to read:

22

128731.  

(a) A licensed general acute care hospital shall
23annually file with the office a policy for providing language
24assistance services to patients with language or communication
25barriers required pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of
26Section 1259.

27(b) The office shall make the hospital policy available to the
28public on the office’s Internet Web site. If another technology
29emerges that replaces Internet Web sites, the office shall make the
30hospital policy available through that subsequent technology.

31begin insert

begin insertSEC. 3.end insert  

end insert
begin insert

No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
32Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
33the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
34district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
35infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
36for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of
37the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within
P6    1the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
2Constitution.

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