Paladero Mon Angelo, a licensed Filipino care worker, won a Japanese speech contest this summer that emphasized the need for interpreters with a special knowledge of Japan’s health care system.

Angelo, 26, said at the contest held in August that foreign residents often have little understanding of Japan’s medical services.

“Foreign residents who speak little Japanese need special medical and welfare interpreters who are familiar with Japan’s medical system, not to mention health conditions,” he said.

The contest was organized by the Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association with participants drawn from foreign residents engaged in health and nursing care.

Angelo, who works at a nursing home for elderly people in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, came to Japan four years ago under an Economic Partnership Agreement with the Philippines.

He recalled a visit he made to a doctor last year in which he met a Filipino mother who had brought her child in for examination but was having a difficult time understanding what the doctor was saying.

Angelo offered to interpret and found out that the mother was being asked to pay all of her medical expenses, instead of the standard 30 percent, because her health insurance card had expired.

Since he had been studying the health care system to become a care worker, he said he was quickly able to figure what the doctor was saying, noting it “is probably hard to understand for foreign residents.”

To help foreign patients, he started teaching foreign interpreters how the medical system works while continuing to work at the nursing home.

In an interview, Angelo said that he himself was bewildered by the cultural differences when he first arrived.

“When I changed the position of a bed so a patient wouldn’t get too much wind from an air conditioner, I was told that the pillow should not be facing north,” he said.

In Japan, sleeping with the pillow facing north is believed to bring bad luck.

He also said he couldn’t stand the cold weather during winter, having never experienced it back home in Zamboanga on Mindanao island.

All his efforts paid off this year when he passed the national health care worker exam.

But some of his Filipino friends have given up and gone home.

“Many of them missed their homes, but I guess the Japanese government can also provide them a future path after they obtain the license,” he said.

Angelo has married a Filipino woman, also a care worker, and they are expecting a baby next year.

His next goal is to become a care manager who is allowed to make plans about how to care for patients.

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