Family docs treating refugees get cash for interpreters

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The Ministries of Public Health and Security and Justice are temporarily making money available for family doctors to pay for telephonic interpreters when they're treating refugees. General practitioners are happy that the government is doing so, but feel it should be a permanent arrangement, the Volkskrant reports.

This money covers the group of refugees who have a living permit and are entitled to their own homes, but are still living in asylum centers due to a shortage in housing in municipalities. In the so-called "acceleration arrangement", which took effect in January, this group of about 10 thousand refugees are housed in temporary housing in municipalities as quickly as possible, in order to relieve pressure on asylum centers and make room for new asylum seekers. In many cases these refugees can't speak Dutch at all.

For family doctors, the acceleration arrangement means that they sometimes get dozens of new patients at a go, many of whom have trouble communicating their problems. In itself, more patients are great, GP Rob Jansen said to the newspaper. "But then we have to have the right facilities. There are people who can only say 'Hi' and 'Hello'. Then the consultation hour runs out and there is a risk of dangerous miscommunication."

"To be able to help a patient well, good translation is a necessity", a spokesperson for the national association of general practitioners LHV said to the newspaper. "Doctors should actually be able to call the phone interpreter for every refugee. Otherwise the situation remains unsafe."

Up until now the telephonic interpreters were only reimbursed if a GP was treating residents of an asylum center. Once a refugee is living by himself, the doctor treating him had to pay for the interpreter, which often cost more than what the doctor charged for treatment.