Amended in Senate June 19, 2015

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) Existing 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. Existing 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 availablebegin insert annuallyend insert 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 begin deleteup toend deletebegin insert inend insert thebegin delete 5end delete 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. Because a violation of these provisions by a health facility would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

(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.

(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.

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

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: yes.

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
12made for interpreters or bilingual professional staff to ensure
13adequate and speedy communication between patients and staff.

P3    1(b)  As used in this section:

2(1)  “Interpreter” means a person fluent in English and in the
3necessary second language, who can accurately speak, read, and
4readily interpret the necessary second language, or a person who
5can accurately sign and read sign language. Interpreters shall have
6the ability to translate the names of body parts and to describe
7competently symptoms and injuries in both languages. Interpreters
8may include members of the medical or professional staff.

9(2)  “Language or communication barriers” means:

10(A)  With respect to spoken language, barriers that are
11experienced by individuals who are limited-English-speaking or
12non-English-speaking individuals who speak the same primary
13language and who comprise at least 5 percent of the population of
14the geographical area served by the hospital or of the actual patient
15population of the hospital. In cases of dispute, the state department
16shall determine, based on objective data, whether the 5 percent
17population standard applies to a given hospital.

18(B)  With respect to sign language, barriers that are experienced
19by individuals who are deaf and whose primary language is sign
20language.

21(c)  To ensure access to health care information and services
22for limited-English-speaking or non-English-speaking residents
23and deaf residents, licensed general acute care hospitals shall:

24(1)  Review existing policies regarding interpreters for patients
25with limited-English proficiency and for patients who are deaf,
26including the availability of staff to act as interpreters.

27(2)  (A) (i) Adopt and review annually a policy for providing
28language assistance services to patients with language or
29communication barriers. The policy shall include procedures for
30providing, to the extent possible, as determined by the hospital,
31the use of an interpreter whenever a language or communication
32barrier exists, except when the patient, after being informed of the
33availability of the interpreter service, chooses to use a family
34member or friend who volunteers to interpret. The procedures shall
35be designed to maximize efficient use of interpreters and minimize
36delays in providing interpreters to patients. The procedures shall
37ensure, to the extent possible, as determined by the hospital, that
38interpreters are available, either on the premises or accessible by
39telephone, 24 hours a day.

P4    1(ii) The hospitalbegin delete shallend deletebegin insert shall, on or before July 1, 2016, and every
2January 1 thereafter,end insert
make the updated policy and a notice of
3availability of language assistance services available to the public
4on its Internet Web site. The notice shall be in English andbegin delete up to
5the fiveend delete
begin insert in theend insert other languages most commonly spoken in the
6hospital’s service area.begin insert For purposes of this paragraph, the hospital
7shall make the notice available in the language of individuals who
8meet the definition of having a language barrier pursuant to
9subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b); however,
10a hospital is not required to make the notice available in more
11than five languages other than English.end insert
If another technology
12emerges that takes the place of Internet Web sites, the state
13department shall direct the hospital, by regulations adopted
14pursuant to the rulemaking procedures of the Administrative
15Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of
16Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), to make
17the information required pursuant to this section available through
18the subsequent technology.

19(B) (i) The hospitalbegin delete shall annuallyend deletebegin insert shall, on or before July 1,
202016, and every January 1 thereafter,end insert
transmit to the department
21a copy of the updated policy and shall include a description of its
22efforts to ensure adequate and speedy communication between
23patients with language or communication barriers and staff.

24(ii) The department shall make the updated policy available to
25the public on its Internet Web site. If another technology emerges
26that replaces Internet Web sites, the department shall make the
27information required pursuant to this section available through
28that subsequent technology.

29(3)  Develop, and post in conspicuous locations, notices that
30advise patients and their families of the availability of interpreters,
31the procedure for obtaining an interpreter and the telephone
32numbers where complaints may be filed concerning interpreter
33service problems, including, but not limited to, a T.D.D. number
34for the hearing impaired. The notices shall be posted, at a
35minimum, in the emergency room, the admitting area, the entrance,
36and in outpatient areas. Notices shall inform patients that interpreter
37services are available upon request, shall list the languages for
38which interpreter services are available, shall instruct patients to
39direct complaints regarding interpreter services to the state
40department, and shall provide the local address and telephone
P5    1number of the state department, including, but not limited to, a
2T.D.D. number for the hearing impaired.

3(4)  Identify and record a patient’s primary language and dialect
4on one or more of the following: patient medical chart, hospital
5bracelet, bedside notice, or nursing card.

6(5)  Prepare and maintain as needed a list of interpreters who
7have been identified as proficient in sign language and in the
8languages of the population of the geographical area serviced who
9have the ability to translate the names of body parts, injuries, and
10symptoms.

11(6)  Notify employees of the hospital’s commitment to provide
12interpreters to all patients who request them.

13(7)  Review all standardized written forms, waivers, documents,
14and informational materials available to patients upon admission
15to determine which to translate into languages other than English.

16(8)  Consider providing its nonbilingual staff with standardized
17picture and phrase sheets for use in routine communications with
18patients who have language or communication barriers.

19(9)  Consider developing community liaison groups to enable
20the hospital and the limited-English-speaking and deaf communities
21to ensure the adequacy of the interpreter services.

22(d)  Noncompliance with this section shall be reportable to
23licensing authorities.

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

25

SEC. 2.  

Section 128731 is added to the Health and Safety Code,
26to read:

27

128731.  

(a) A licensed general acute care hospitalbegin delete shall
28annuallyend delete
begin insert shall, on or before July 1, 2016, and every January 1
29thereafter,end insert
file with the office a policy for providing language
30assistance services to patients with language or communication
31barriers required pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of
32Section 1259.

33(b) The office shall make the hospital policy available to the
34public on the office’s Internet Web site. If another technology
35emerges that replaces Internet Web sites, the office shall make the
36hospital policy available through that subsequent technology.

37

SEC. 3.  

No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
38Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
39the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
40district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
P6    1infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
2for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of
3the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within
4the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
5Constitution.



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