Israel's population is heterogeneous and composed of various groups differentiated by religion, culture and language.
- According to The National Health Insurance Law, all residents are entitled to an unconditional universal right to receive healthcare services.
- Accordingly, Ministry of Health Director Circular 7/11 sets forth guidelines regarding making information accessible in languages other than Hebrew.
Who is Eligible?
- Anyone receiving medical services in the healthcare system.
Information for Patients in Different Languages
- Forms requiring a patient's signature (informed consent forms, admission forms, payment/financial obligation forms) must be available in four languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English.
- Care providers are obligated to confirm that patients understand everything related to the medical care they received or will receive, including the right to refuse the proposed treatment. This can be done in various ways, including translated written material, translation services through a call center, or through "cultural mediators" and interpreters.
- Patients have the right to receive written administrative materials (such as information about rights related to receiving medical services, locations and operating hours of clinics, visiting hours, payment methods, etc.) in four languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English.
- It is mandatory to promulgate existing information pertaining to health care promotion, preventative medicine, domestic violence, etc. in the following languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English.
- Signs in healthcare institutions must, to the greatest extent possible, be presented in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English.
- Public complaints departments must be capable of providing support via telephone within a reasonable time frame, and in any event, within 24 hours (in accordance with institutional operating hours) in each of the following languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Amharic and English.
- Written applications/inquiries must be made in Hebrew. Nonetheless, those who contact a public complaints department in Arabic, Russian or English for any reason (such as lack of Hebrew language skills) shall have their inquiry processed, and will be informed that it may require additional processing time compared with inquiries made in Hebrew, and that they must submit any further inquiries in Hebrew unless the public complaints department has chosen to respond in the other language.
- Telephone service centers in public health institutions, whose purpose is to manage doctor appointments and provide information on medical care and patients' rights, are required to provide service in five languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English and Amharic. Each medical institution may choose the manner by which such service is given, provided that patients receive service in a language that they understand within 24 hours.
- Emergency call centers (such as Magen David Adom (MDA), health plan emergency call centers, etc.) must be able to provide immediate response in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English and Amharic, so that citizens are afforded their right to emergency services.
- The websites of health organizations and institutions must be accessible to Arabic, Russian and English readers, and must include essential information in these languages, such as information about basic rights, core services and contact information.
Interpreting Services During Treatment
- According to the Ministry of Health director circular, all organizations and institutions within the healthcare system (including primary care services, the hospital system, emergency services, preventative services, health bureaus, etc.) are required to have interpretation services available when needed in the course of medical treatment/advising. Such services may be provided in the following ways:
- Providing professional interpretation services via telephone, by way of designated call centers for the aforementioned languages.
- Employing "cultural mediators" within the institution who speak the languages.
- Employing staff members who speak the languages.
- For information about translation services in state hospitals and in the Ministry of Health see the Ministry of Health website
- For information about translation services at Hadassa Hospitals "B-Shfataychi" (Russian and Arabic).
Receiving Translation/Interpretation Assistance from Family Members and Others
- As a general rule, a patient's family members should not be used as interpreters, unless the patient has expressly requested it of his/her own volition.
- In any event, a family member who is a minor may not be used as an interpreter except in the following cases:
- In an emergency situation
- To relay simple, age-appropriate information
- Family members may not be used as translators for Mental health services except in the following cases:
- In an emergency situation
- If the patient has expressly requested it of his/her own volition
- Passersby or strangers may not be used as interpreters, except if expressly requested by the patient.
- Strangers used for translation/interpretation purposes must be informed of their obligation to maintain confidentiality of personal and medical information disclosed to them.
- Tene Health Association operates a telephone translation service for the Ethiopian population see Kol L'Briyut - telephone translation for medical treatment for the Ethiopian population.
- For a list of Health and Illness/Aid Organizations
Laws and Regulations
- The National Health Insurance Law
- Ministry of Health Director Circular 7/11 from 03.02.2011 (in English) - Cultural and linguistic accessibility in the healthcare system
- Information about the Ministry of Health's telephone medical translation center on the Ministry of Health's English website
- English translation and maintenance by The Shira Pransky Project.