On June 15, 2020, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) launched a free medical interpreter service for the healthcare facilities that provide care for the confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients.
The new service is expected to remove the language berries the foreign patients often face in Japan. The free language assistance is offered in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portugese. According to MHLW, it is an emergency response to the pandemic and available 24 hours a day, now through November 28, 2020.
The service is specifically offered to the hospitals, clinics and designated medical facilities for infectious diseases that examine COVID-19 cases, such as people who have arrived in Japan recently and those who have been exposed to any confirmed cases of COVID-19. A doctor and a patient in a medical office can talk with an interpreter on the speakerphone, or an interpreter can be added to a doctor-patient call in a three-way calling. An individual patient, however, does not have direct access to the interpreters.
MHLW expects the free interpretation service enhances the language access in healthcare in Japan and eases anxiety arising from COVID-19.