Bilin­gual ser­vice is a must

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

The Ed­i­tor, I re­cently drove a friend to the hos­pi­tal in Alexan­dria as she felt she needed ur­gent med­i­cal help. I per­son­ally would not have cho­sen that in­sti­tu­tion as I had a very un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence there, in 2015. But Alexan­dria is closer by car than Hawkes­bury and my friend had sought as­sis­tance there pre­vi­ously.

We en­tered by the emer­gency area us­ing one of the hos­pi­tal's wheel­chairs. At the re­cep­tion counter, she pro­duced her OHIP card and nod­ded in agree­ment as the re­cep­tion­ist read off in­for­ma­tion from the com­puter screen. We were told to wait near a set of doors for the triage nurse.

When the doors opened, I wheeled my friend into a small room. By that time she was al­most faint­ing from pain. The nurse asked some med­i­cal ques­tions. My friend an­swered the ones she un­der­stood and asked the triage nurse to com­mu­ni­cate with her in French but was told that the nurse could not speak that lan­guage.

If one goes into any busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment in Alexan­dria, restau­rant, hard­ware, auto me­chanic garage, gro­cery store, LCBO, etc., not only does one over­hear cus­tomers speak­ing French but also busi­ness em­ploy­ees. I don't know the ex­act lan­guage de­mo­graphic for Alexan­dria but I sus­pect that there is a size­able fran­co­phone pop­u­la­tion.

How can a hos­pi­tal em­ploy a triage nurse who can­not func­tion in a lan­guage other than English? I am orig­i­nally from Mon­treal and put up with nar­row-minded lan­guage de­crees for most of my life liv­ing in La Belle Prov­ince. How re­fresh­ing it was to cross the bor­der from Que­bec into On­tario and see bilin­gual road signs. How re­fresh­ing it is to go to the Hawkes­bury Hos­pi­tal where the vast ma­jor­ity of staff is fran­co­phone yet are at least func­tion­ally but usu­ally flu­ently able to con­verse in French and English.

The triage nurse whom my friend had to deal with and the nurse's em­ployer most likely do not un­der­stand the eco­nomic im­pact of a unilin­gual em­ployee. Each time that an area res­i­dent vis­its the Hawkes­bury Hos­pi­tal, pur­chases might be made in Hawkes­bury es­tab­lish­ments af­ter­wards as well as in Van­kleek Hill on the way back home. Con­nect the dots. Alexan­dria busi­nesses lose po­ten­tial sales from clients forced to go else­where look­ing to be treated in a dig­ni­fied man­ner. Jerry Bo­roff, Dalkeith

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