Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Joint Committee On Children, Equality, Disability, Integration And Youth

Experiences of Migrant Communities Engaging with the Healthcare System and State Bodies: Discussion

Dr. Angela Skuce:

I will answer a few of the Deputy's questions about interpreting. There are some very good examples of positive things. In the Capuchin clinic, we are lucky to have a specialist diabetes clinic. The Roma population tends to have a high incidence of metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, and all the complications that come with it if it is not managed. We are lucky enough to have a consultant diabetologist, who volunteers and runs a clinic once a month with an outreach nurse and with our interpreter. Almost all of her patients are non-English speaking Roma people and that clinic has been running for a few years. Its figures are better than the national average. These are people living in very poor circumstances, who do not have medical cards, do not speak English and do not have much money to buy great food and that kind of thing. Their parameters for everything, including eye tests, foot care, blood tests and everything, are better than the national average. That is because we have a good, familiar and trusted interpreter who has worked with that team for a long time. That costs a certain amount of money but saves enormous amounts of money, down the line, because if diabetes is poorly controlled, people end up in hospital with lots of complications. They can be on dialysis for years. The cost savings for the health service and for disability benefits are enormous.

The Deputy is absolutely right about using interpreters from abroad. We used to have access to a multinational interpreting agency. We probably have enough interpreters for the more common languages but every now and then, somebody who speaks Mongolian or a language we have little demand for will come in. When we have that demand, we need interpreters. We used to be able to access interpreters in the UK through an agency that has offices in Ireland so we would get an interpreter on the phone straight away. That is not ideal but it is adequate, most of the time.