Adalah demands Arabic language translators in Naqab health clinics

Many Bedouin patients are unable to understand medical advice from doctors; situation violates Health Ministry's instructions on linguistic and cultural accessibility.

On 22 January 2015, Adalah sent a letter to the president of the Clalit Health Services demanding that the institute employ professional Arabic language translators in health clinics located in the Naqab/Negev.  The letter was issued following complaints from residents of several Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab – including Bir Hidaj, Abu Krinat, Al Tarabeen, Aldarejat, and Al Saeed – of difficulty in understanding their medical conditions when the medical staff in the clinics communicated only in Hebrew.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher wrote in the letter that Clalit's negligence in linguistic accessibility results in inadequate care for Bedouin residents in the Naqab.  Many of these residents speak very little Hebrew, which in turn obstructs their ability to receive full and equal medical treatment to which they are entitled. The Bedouin patients are subsequently unable to understand the questions, recommendations or advice given by medical practitioners pertaining to their health. This particularly affects the elderly residents of the villages, who are most in need of medical treatment.        


The letter further noted that the Bedouin patients have been forced to rely on their relatives or friends who speak Hebrew, thereby making their health access dependent on others' language proficiency.  Zaher argued that this is a source of embarrassment for Bedouin patients who do not wish to disclose sensitive information about their health to their relatives or friends, but are forced to due to the language need.


Additionally, Attorney Zaher argued that the current situation in Naqab Health Centers violates the instructions issued by the Israeli Health Minister in 2011, which require all health institutions to provide adequate linguistic and cultural accommodations to all communities they serve.  The ministry imposed a deadline for health centers to implement the appropriate changes no later than July 2013.


In 2013, Adalah and a partner legal center requested an inspection of Clalit's health facilities in the Naqab in order to determine its compliance with the 2011 Health Ministry order. Clalit subsequently claimed that it had yet to implement the linguistic accommodations. Today, more than a year and half later, Clalit continues to neglect the legal standard for health clinics in Israel and the health needs of its Arab Bedouin clients in the Naqab.