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Q. Who can accompany a patient to the Emergency Department, and are there translators available for non-English speaking patients?

A. For the most part, a patient in the Emergency Department (ED) can be accompanied by another person at all of the state’s hospitals. Pandemic protocols dictate that both the patient and their escort will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and masks will be provided if the patient and escort don’t have them. The majority of the state’s hospitals are operated by four health care companies: Trinity Health of New England, which oversees St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford and St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, among others; Yale New Haven Health, which includes Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, and Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven; Nuvance Health, which includes Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital; and Hartford Healthcare, which includes Backus Hospital in Norwich, Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, Midstate Medical Center in Meriden, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, and Windham Hospital. All of these facilities have translators available, by phone and within each facility, free of charge. Stamford Hospital, which is independently owned, also offers translation services.

Such services are offered at the hospitals, if needed, when patients are receiving clinic or emergency services; obtaining medical histories; when providing information concerning patients’ rights; when discussing a diagnosis or medical treatment; when discussing changes in condition; during mental health evaluations; and when explaining medical information, discharge instructions and out-patient treatment plans. If a translator is not offered by the hospital, the patient or escort should ask for one ASAP. All hospitals made it clear they have translators available at all times. There are also services provided for deaf or hard-of-hearing patients.

In short – all patients visiting Emergency Departments should have access to a translator if one is needed. The patient or escort should let the admitting personnel know there is a need for a translator; if the escort is not allowed to stay, he or she should tell ED personnel of the need before leaving. If there are other concerns about or problems with patient care in the ED, ask to speak to a patient advocate, a department supervisor or nurse supervisor on duty. If you wish to speak to a patient advocate after a visit, the Connecticut Hospital Association has a list of advocates and contact information by hospital here.

Visiting hours and protocols for inpatients differ slightly at each hospital, so call the facility or check the website before visiting a patient in a hospital. Most hospitals have special guidelines for visitation during the pandemic available on their websites. All hospitals require masks to be worn, and some have age restrictions on visitors during the pandemic.

The state Department of Public Health in June changed its policy to allow people with disabilities to have a support person accompany them in the hospital, after several disability rights groups filed a complaint with the state Office of Civil Rights. The complaint alleged that the lack of a statewide policy during the pandemic violated their equal rights and jeopardized their quality of care because “no visitor” policies at hospitals allowed only narrow exceptions for people with disabilities who receive services from the state.

The DPH order allows disabled people who need assistance to have one designated support person with them. If the patient has to be in the facility for more than one day, two support people are allowed, provided that only one is present at a time. The order also applies to outpatient clinics and surgical facilities. All support people must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and must comply with the facility’s pandemic protocols, including wearing a mask.

The order also says the facility will provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for the support person.

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