Lee Health - Ensuring Equitable Care for a Diverse Community

Learn how Lee Health used robust language services to serve a community in which nearly one in four people speaks a language other than English at home.

resource cover imageLee Health is a southwest Florida health system consisting of four acute care hospitals and two specialty hospitals. The organization – founded in 1916 when a group of community leaders raised $300 to launch Ft. Myers’ first hospital – recently celebrated 100 years of pursuing its mission: To be a trusted partner, empowering healthier lives through care and compassion.

Lee County is home to 650,000 residents. Nearly one in four speaks a language other than English at home, and the county-wide illiteracy rate is 13%. Lee Health’s most-commonly-requested language is Spanish, but patients arrive speaking Haitian Creole, German, ASL, and less-common languages as well.

Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates is Lee’s System Director of Diversity and Patient Care Civil Rights. She joined Lee’s Diversity department in 2007 and has spent the past decade building a leading language services program dedicated to caring for the Ft. Myers community.

Lee Health employs 15 full-time staff interpreters providing face-to-face interpretation in Spanish, Haitian-Creole, German, French, and American Sign Language. But given the diversity of Lee County, they often encounter less-common languages.

“We see many patients from Guatemala, where they speak more than 20 indigenous dialects,” Ms. Yemisi explained. “Some are rare, and we can’t assume a patient speaks Spanish simply because they’re from a Latin-American country.”

She recalled one case that required Lee to go above and beyond in identifying a language:

“We had a patient years ago - a toddler from Guatemala whose mother needed to consent to his surgery. Her Spanish comprehension was quite low, but we learned that she spoke Mam - a dialect spoken by a very small population. CyraCom helped us locate one of only a handful of Mam interpreters in the US - it was amazing. We were able to connect with the mother, and her baby was able to have surgery that day.”

Download the case study to learn how CyraCom helps Lee Health provide equitable care to its community.