Urasoe hospital installs real-time foreign language service

Urasoe Sogo Hospital, one of the major emergency hospitals in Okinawa, has become the first hospital in the prefecture to employ a translation system to help communication between doctors, hospital staff and foreign patients.

The translation system, provided by NEC, utilizes a tablet computer that is connected 24-hours a day, seven days a week to professional translators in an NEC-operated center in Tokyo that will provide translations in real time.

Hospital officials say that the system enables them to better deal with foreign emergency, out and inpatients any time a need arises.  The NEC translation center is in Tokyo, and has a staff of 150 to support the service 24 hours a day.

The service covers five languages, English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.  The company has already started the service to 30 locations throughout the nation including local government office counters, banks, airports, department stores and railway stations. However, this is the first time it has been installed in a hospital.

A spokesman for Urasoe Sogo Hospital says that they have a new foreign inpatient, each day on average, in addition to 2 or 3 foreign out patients who are coming by.  Only around 20 staff members out of the 1,200 people working in the hospital can support foreigners in English, and there is only one person who is able to communicate in Korean.

Hospital officials explained that they were concerned it would cost a lot of money and time to hire people who could help overseas patients. Now the new service can lead to strengthen the support for foreign patients including overseas tourists.