French lan­guage ser­vices in the health-care sys­tem

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - HEALTH / COMMUNITY - Elise Arse­nault Elise Arse­nault is the French lan­guage ser­vices an­a­lyst for Health P.E.I. Talk­ing Health is a monthly col­umn about the Prince Ed­ward Is­land health sys­tem of­fered by Health P.E.I.

In De­cem­ber 2013, a new French Lan­guage Ser­vices Act for Prince Ed­ward Is­land was in­tro­duced that es­tab­lishes clear obli­ga­tions re­gard­ing the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices in French by gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies such as Health P.E.I.

The act also al­lows gov­ern­ment and its agen­cies to de­ter­mine which ser­vices are of­fered in French, based on the needs of the Aca­dian and fran­co­phone com­mu­nity, as well as gov­ern­ment's ca­pac­ity and re­sources to of­fer such ser­vices.

Re­ceiv­ing health ser­vices in French ben­e­fits both the pa­tient/ and the health-care provider, as it leads to bet­ter pa­tient safety and user sat­is­fac­tion. Any­one re­ceiv­ing health in­for­ma­tion or in­struc­tions can con­firm that re­ceiv­ing the in­for­ma­tion in a sec­ond lan­guage can be con­fus­ing, stress­ful and, ul­ti­mately, lead to users re­turn­ing for fur­ther care as they may not have un­der­stood the in­for­ma­tion clearly enough due to lan­guage bar­ri­ers.

Since the in­tro­duc­tion of the French Lan­guage Ser­vices Act, Health P.E.I. has worked to­wards im­prov­ing health-care ser­vices of­fered in French, among other lan­guages. For in­stance, did you know the 8-1-1 health in­for­ma­tion ser­vice can be ac­cessed in French for those seek­ing non­emer­gency health ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Health P.E.I. staff can now ac­cess lan­guage in­ter­pre­ta­tion ser­vice to fur­ther im­prove pa­tient safety, min­i­mize risk is­sues and en­sure the health in­for­ma­tion and treat­ment di­a­logue are clearly un­der­stood by both the health-care provider and the pa­tient.

Also, Health P.E.I. is trans­lat­ing its web­site into French, mak­ing it eas­ier for the French-speak­ing public to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion such as walk-in clin­ics, wait times and how to pre­pare for a hos­pi­tal stay.

In ad­di­tion to these cur­rent ac­tiv­i­ties, Health P.E.I. is in the process of de­vel­op­ing a sur­vey that will cap­ture an in­di­vid­ual's pre­ferred lan­guage of ser­vice. This Septem­ber, ev­ery house­hold across Prince Ed­ward Is­land will be re­ceiv­ing a sur­vey by mail. In­di­vid­u­als may also be sur­veyed at the time they re­new their health card. The in­tent is to have the lan­guage in­for­ma­tion col­lected from the sur­vey linked to your per­sonal health num­ber, which is the num­ber on your health card used to ac­cess Medi­care ser­vices. In the near fu­ture, an in­di­vid­ual's pre­ferred lan­guage of ser­vice will also be dis­played on the new bilin­gual health cards. This will help health-care providers iden­tify the pre­ferred lan­guage of ser­vice.

Col­lect­ing lan­guage data will also help Health P.E.I. in plan­ning for ser­vices. Know­ing where in­di­vid­u­als are ac­cess­ing ser­vices in French is help­ful and will bet­ter guide Health P.E.I. in iden­ti­fy­ing where bilin­gual health-care providers should be lo­cated. As an ex­am­ple, the new Sum­mer­set Manor in Summerside es­tab­lished a bilin­gual wing to sup­port and ac­com­mo­date the high num­ber of Aca­dian and fran­co­phone res­i­dents.

To con­tact Health P.E.I. about this or other in­quiries, call 902368-6130 or email health­in­put@

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