Transcultural and language barriers to patient care
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Communities are become increasingly multicultural and ethnically disparate and dentists need to be alert to the diverse challenges this may bring to their practices. This is particularly true for South Africa where transcultural and language barriers continue to compromise a large proportion of the population in their access to health services and quality dental care. These challenges may lead to misunderstandings, communication problems and on occasions, breakdowns in the professional relationships which have little or nothing to do with the dentistry itself. Transcultural issues need to be managed with fairness, sensitivity and respect. The Patients' Rights Charter provides that patients should have access to health care and the right to health information that includes guidelines on the availability of health services and how best to use those services. Further, such information shall be in a language understood by the patient. The National Health Act (Act 61 of 2003) emphasises this latter requirement and states that "The healthcare provider must, where possible, inform the user, as contemplated in subsection (1), in a language that the user understands and in a manner which takes into account the user's level of literacy".