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Fighting Words

July 29, 1990

One of the things I love about my job as a supervisor in an outpatient medical clinic is having the opportunity to work with a group of employees from many countries. One of the things I detest most about my job is having to calm down irate patients and staff who complain that some employees insist on speaking Tagalog around them even when asked to speak English. Frequently, the patients feel paranoid ("They're talking about my condition and trying to hide something from me"), and the staff feel excluded ("How rude that they think I don't have anything to contribute to the conversation--whatever the subject").

No one I know wishes to deny anyone his or her cultural heritage or personal rights. But the reality is that in this era of tough competition among health-care providers for both patients and employees, action has to be taken because patients will go elsewhere to be treated and employees to work.

KATHY W. SMITH

Torrance

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