The purpose of this procedure is to provide guidelines for use of interpreting services for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds or who are hearing impaired and use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Link HC ensures that accessible and effective communication occurs across their service delivery journey.



1. Clients Needing an Interpreter
The use of an Interpreter should be considered in the following circumstances:
• The client exhibits no understanding or effective use of English;
• The client is able to communicate in English but in a limited capacity;
• Where the client is able to communicate in English but is more comfortable with her/his own language;
• The client is under stress, which may hinder her/ his ability to communicate adequately in English.
• When undertaking any health assessment;
• When communicating any information affecting the client (e.g. information about the health of the patient, information about prescribed drugs, consent to treatment);
• When providing the client with information about entitlements, rights and responsibilities and child safety;
• When conducting any formal interview;
• The client has other language barriers such as hearing impairment.


2. Funding Eligibility
• The Victorian Interpreting & Translating Service (VITS) is the provider of language services (including Auslan) for all Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Program Credit Line(s). See Appendix One for instructions on how to book a VITS Interpreter.
• Link HC Oral Health Services, both public and private, are ineligible to access the above credit lines and will be charged for all interpreting and translating services. The choice of provider will therefore be made based on current needs and available funding.
• The Department of Social Services provides free telephone interpreting services for GPs when providing Medicare-rebateable consults in private practice, delivered by the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). On site interpreting will be subject to interpreter 1.9 Interpreter Use Procedure March 2017 Page 2 of 12
availability. The Doctors Priority Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1300 575 847.
• Alternative providers of interpreting and translating services include ONCALL, TIS and Vicdeaf.


3. Link HC Initiated First Contact
If a client presents to Link HC whose first language is not English or who cannot be easily understood, VITS should be used for telephone interpreting in the first instance. The client only needs to state the language he/she requires and an interpreter can assist using a three way telephone link.


4. Client-Initiated
First Contact All clients who have communication difficulties will be encouraged to use the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) on 131 450 to make calls to Link HC in the first instance. The cost of this telephone service is paid by Link HC. Following this, interpreters are to be arranged with reference to point 1. A poster in English and current community languages providing general guidance on the use of TIS will be available in each Reception area, on the Link HC website and on the Intranet in alignment with health literacy principles.


5. Standard of Interpreting
VITS, TIS, Vicdeaf and ONCALL all guarantee professional level interpreters who are accredited with the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). It is recommended that a Level 2 or 3 Professional Level interpreter is booked for all onsite interpreting.


6. When an Interpreter Is Not Available
There are situations that may arise when an accredited Professional Level 2 or 3 interpreter is not available.
• Try to re -schedule the client’s appointment to a time when a suitably qualified interpreter is available.
• Obtain a telephone interpreter instead.
• Use a level 1 professional interpreter and record the reason for this in the client file.
• In all situations, the reason for making a particular communication, decision should be noted in the health record.


7. When a Client Refuses To Use a Professional Interpreter
Clients may refuse a professional interpreter for a variety of reasons, including concerns about privacy and confidentiality; the gender or religious/ethnic background of the interpreter.
If a client refuses to use a professional interpreter:
• Try to explore the reasons for refusal via a telephone interpreter or family members/friends (not persons under 18 years of age);
• Explain to the client the possible consequences of failing to use a professional interpreter;
• If possible, communicate without an interpreter then re-assess the situation;
1.9 Interpreter Use Procedure March 2017 Page 3 of 12
• Use family members or friends (over 18 years of age or a mature minor) as a last resort. No child under the age of 18 years unless they are a mature minor, is to provide interpreting services under any circumstances;
• Clinicians may refuse service until such time as a suitable interpreter can be arranged.
All decisions and outcomes are to be documented in the health record.


8. When using Family Members or Friends as Interpreters
The use of family members and friends is not encouraged due to issues arising from:
• Potential breaches of confidentiality and/or privacy;
• Potential for messages being conveyed to be misinterpreted, distorted, suppressed, censored or altered;
• Conflict of interest;
• Potential for loss of objectivity;
• Conflict of roles;
• Not being bound by same standards of conduct as qualified professional interpreters.
If the client understands the consequences of their choice and this action does not put the agency or the client at risk, then a family member or friend may be used.


9. Using Bilingual Staff as Interpreters
Bilingual employees may use their language skills in the context of their occupation. They may also communicate information to a client when only a basic level of knowledge of the language is required. This might include assisting a receptionist in determining an appointment. Bilingual staff have the right to decline a request.


10. Prior to booking an interpreter
• Consider client preference for a male or female interpreter.

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