Creating a Nonprofit Corporation to Provide Contract Interpreter and Translation Services to Health Care Organizations in Upstate South Carolina

Greenville Hospital System Site Profile

Field of Work: Helping health care organizations meet the challenge of providing language services and signage to Latinos.

Problem Synopsis: According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 census, more than 28 million Latinos in the United States over the age of 5 spoke Spanish at home. Among those, almost 9 million said they spoke English "not well" or "not at all," according to the census. Those numbers have climbed through the decade, with Latinos becoming the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States.

Four competing nonprofit hospitals in upstate South Carolina banded together in 2002 to form MedVerse®, an independent, nonprofit corporation, to provide themselves with reliable and affordable contract interpreter and translation services. Greenville Hospital System, one of the four founding hospitals, received the Hablamos Juntos grant on behalf of the project.

Synopsis of the Work: MedVerse offered the following services:

  • Medical interpretation for patients and providers.
  • Interpreter training for health and human service organizations.
  • Document translation.
  • Training in Latino cultural competency for health care providers.

Key Results

  • At its peak in the fall of 2004, MedVerse had 35 interpreters and averaged about 2,260 interpretation encounters per month. Interpreters served 11 hospitals, including the four sponsors, as well as clinics and private practices.

    One sponsoring hospital established its own interpretation program by the end of the first project year, depriving MedVerse of one of its most consistent sources of revenue.

    A further complication was an almost 100 percent turnover in MedVerse's staff and board membership during the start-up period.

    Ultimately, MedVerse was unable to make the transition from a grant-funded project to a self-sustaining small business. All four sponsoring hospitals concluded they needed their own in-house services, and in October 2005, the MedVerse board voted to dissolve the corporation.

    Nonetheless, Juana Slade, the project director, believes MedVerse's efforts improved language services in the region. All four sponsoring hospitals ultimately established their own language-services programs, adding a total of 20 interpreters to their rosters.

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