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Spanish-Speaking Doctors Hope To Build Trust At New Downtown Sacramento Medical Center

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

Dr. Roberto Solis talks to patient Enrique Ahumada at Kaiser Permanente’s new bilingual clinic downtown. A new report says more Spanish-speaking doctors will be needed to meet the needs of California's increasingly diverse patient population.

Sammy Caiola / Capital Public Radio

From the front desk to the exam rooms, Spanish is spoken everywhere inside Kaiser Permanente’s new Salud en Español clinic in downtown Sacramento.

The nine bilingual providers who work in the clinic hope to build trust with Spanish-speaking patients, who often struggle to access medical care because of language barriers.

“The people that come here, they’re so happy, because finally they're able to communicate with someone who speaks their language,” said Dr. Eduardo Bermudez, an internal medicine physician with Kaiser.

Bermudez is medical services director for the new Downtown Commons offices near the Golden 1 Center. It’s a six-story building staffed by about 50 doctors, and the latest addition to Sacramento’s booming health care industry.

The new Salud en Español is one of 17 bilingual clinics in the Kaiser system. UC Davis also offers a student-run primary care clinic for Latino patients on Saturdays.

Other hospitals offer a free interpreting service, but Bermudez said using a third party for treatment can be tricky. The patient may be too embarrassed to share their medical information with a translator or a family member. Or a family member may not translate all of the doctor’s instructions.

“Sometimes patients do not divulge all the information,” Bermudez said. “You lose that trust, and sometimes the patients say well, I don’t wanna do what the doctor’s telling me, and that’s not good health care.”

About 38 percent of Californians are Latino, but only 5 percent of the state’s doctors. Bermudez said that gap makes this population less likely to access care, even though they’re at high risk for diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

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