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  • Acts
  • 2000
  • Chapter 66 AN ACT REQUIRING COMPETENT INTERPRETER SERVICES IN THE DELIVERY OF CERTAIN ACUTE HEALTH CARE SERVICES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Chapter 111 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 25I the following section:-

Section 25J. (a) For purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:-

"Non-English speaker", a person who cannot speak or understand, or has difficulty with speaking or understanding, the English language because the speaker primarily or only uses a spoken language other than English.

"Competent interpreter services", interpreter services performed by a person who is fluent in English and in the language of a non-English speaker, who is trained and proficient in the skill and ethics of interpreting and who is knowledgeable about the specialized terms and concepts that need to be interpreted for purposes of receiving emergency care or treatment.

(b) Every acute-care hospital, as defined in section 25B, shall provide competent interpreter services in connection with all emergency room services provided to every non-English speaker who is a patient or who seeks appropriate emergency care or treatment. Based on the volume and diversity of the non-English-speaking patients or persons seeking appropriate emergency care or treatment, each such hospital shall use reasonable judgment as to whether to employ, or to contract for the on-call use of one or more interpreters for particular languages when needed, or to use competent telephonic or televiewing interpreter services. However, such hospital shall only use competent telephonic or televiewing interpreter services in situations where there is either (1) no reasonable way to anticipate the need for employed or contracted interpreters for a particular language; or (2) there occurs, in a particular instance, an inability to provide competent interpreter services by an employed or contracted interpreter.

(c) The receipt by any non-English speaker of interpreter services shall not be deemed the receipt of a "public benefit" under any provision of law restricting benefits or assistance on the basis of immigrant status.

(d) Substantial compliance with the provisions of this section shall be a requirement of licensing or relicensing by the department under section 51, and the department may promulgate regulations under said section 51 for the implementation of this section.

(e) Any non-English speaker, who is denied appropriate emergency health care services by an acute-care hospital by reason of such hospital's not having exercised reasonable judgment in making competent interpreter services available, as required by this section, or the attorney general upon receiving written notice from a regulating state agency that such hospital is substantially failing to comply with applicable interpreter requirements, shall have a right of action in the superior court against such hospital for declaratory or injunctive relief. A non-English speaker bringing such action shall not be required to exhaust any administrative remedies that may be available to him and may be awarded damages for any actual harm suffered, but at least $250 in damages shall be awarded for each violation, together with such costs, including expert fees and attorney's fees, as may be reasonably incurred in such action. Such action shall be brought within three years of any such failure to provide competent interpreter services.

SECTION 2. Section 7 of chapter 118G of the General Laws, as appearing in the 1998 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the fourth paragraph the following paragraph:-

In determining rates to be paid by governmental units to acute-care hospitals, as defined in section 25B of chapter 111, and any hospital or separate unit of a hospital that provides acute psychiatric services, as defined in said section 25B, the division shall include as an operating expense the reasonable cost of providing competent interpreter services as required by section 25J of said chapter 111 or section 23A of chapter 123.

SECTION 3. Section 11 of said chapter 118G, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "requirements", in line 6, the following words:- and shall include reimbursement for the reasonable cost of providing competent interpreter services pursuant to section 25J of chapter 111 or section 23A of chapter 123.

SECTION 4. Said section 11 of said chapter 118G , as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the word "care", in line 21, the following words:- , including the costs of providing competent interpreter services pursuant to section 25J of chapter 111 or section 23A of chapter 123.

SECTION 5. Chapter 123 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 23 the following section:-

Section 23A. (a) For purposes of this section the following words shall have the following meanings:

"Non-English speaker", a person who cannot speak or understand, or has difficulty with speaking or understanding, the English language because the speaker primarily or only uses a spoken language other than English.

"Competent interpreter services", interpreter services performed by a person who is fluent in English and in the language of a non-English speaker, who is trained and proficient in the skill and ethics of interpreting and who is knowledgeable about the specialized terms and concepts that need to be interpreted for purposes of receiving emergency care or treatment.

(b) Every hospital or separate unit of a hospital which provides acute psychiatric services, as defined in section 25B of chapter 111, shall in connection with the delivery of such services, and if an appropriate bilingual clinician is not available, provide competent interpreter services to every non-English speaker who is a patient. Based on the volume and diversity of the non-English-speaking patients or persons seeking appropriate emergency care or treatment, each such hospital shall use reasonable judgment as to whether to employ, or to contract for the on-call use of one or more interpreters for particular languages when needed, or to use competent telephonic or televiewing interpreter services. However, such hospital shall only use competent telephonic or televiewing interpreter services in situations where there is either (1) no reasonable way to anticipate the need for employed or contracted interpreters for a particular language; or (2) there occurs, in a particular instance, an inability to provide competent interpreter services by an employed or contracted interpreter.

(c) The receipt by any non-English speaker of interpreter services shall not be deemed the receipt of a "public benefit" under any provision of law restricting benefits or assistance on the basis of immigrant status.

(d) Substantial compliance with the provisions of this section shall be a requirement of licensing or relicensing by the department under section 19 of chapter 19, and the department may promulgate regulations pursuant to section 18 of said chapter 19 for the implementation of this section.

(e) Any non-English speaker, who is denied appropriate acute psychiatric services by a hospital or separate unit of a hospital which provides acute psychiatric services by reason of the hospital's not having exercised reasonable judgment in making competent interpreter services available, as required by this section, or the attorney general upon receiving written notice from a regulating state agency that such hospital is substantially failing to comply with applicable interpreter requirements, shall have a right of action in the superior court against such hospital for declaratory or injunctive relief. A non-English speaker bringing such action shall not be required to exhaust any administrative remedies that may be available to him and may be awarded damages for any actual harm suffered, but at least $250 in damages shall be awarded for each violation, together with such costs, including expert fees and attorney's fees, as may be reasonably incurred in such action. Such action shall be brought within three years of any such failure to provide competent interpreter services.

SECTION 6. This act shall take effect on July 1, 2001.

Approved April 14, 2000.