Imagine being in America when you’re hurt or very ill, but unable to communicate with emergency services because you don’t speak the same language. Unfortunately, for many Chinese Americans living in New York City, that has been a life-threatening problem. But now, an ambulance company has added Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking paramedics to its fleet to cater specifically to the city’s growing Chinese population.
CCTV America’s Liling Tan reports. Follow Liling Tan on Twitter @LilingTan
NYC emergency services add Chinese-speaking paramedicsMidwood Ambulance Service expanded its fleet of ambulances in April to cater to New York City's non-English speaking Asian American community. CCTV America's Liling Tan reports.
Midwood Ambulance Service expanded its fleet of ambulances in April to cater to New York City’s non-English speaking Asian American community.
Among the Asian community, many see the hospital as a last resort and would usually call a doctor or go to the clinic first — even when the situation is an emergency.
Much of that is because of the language barrier.
“We can see a lot of Asian seniors that generally don’t speak the language, so we are providing just another option besides 911, because we do speak the language,” Sisi Yam, Midwood ambulance Service said. “When they call 911, they don’t know how to speak, when they go to the hospital they don’t know how to fill in the form, and since we see the need, that’s why we are trying to help out with the specific community.”
Paramedics David Tran and Jin Huan Yang said it has made a difference.
“They suspected her lower intestines were having some complications,” Tram said. “My Mandarin is not as good as everybody else’s, but you know, we got through it, we had a conversation. I believe as an EMT you have to learn how to get the diagnosis and figure out what is going on, but if you have a background like a Chinese background, it does help, so there’s no language barriers.”
“Also the fact that you see a familiar face, you speak the same tongue, it helps a lot to calm them down,” Yang said. “To be able to converse with them and then assure them that they’ll be okay, let them know how things work in the hospital, that helps a lot too.”
Midwood’s paramedics speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and other Chinese dialects, as well as Korean.
“The Asian population in NYC particularly the Chinese population has exploded in the last couple of few years and we started servicing Chinese physicians that work close with the community,” Alonzo Rapisarda, Midwood Ambulance Services director of hospital services, said. “In order to do this service the right way, I decided that we’d have a dedicated staff, a dedicated dispatch line and Chinese and Korean speaking paramedics on the ambulances.”
Call volumes have been increasing, and Midwood is adding another four ambulances to its Asian American service.