Uncurable in French: disturbing experiences

A Vaudreuil mother who visited a dermatologist for her 3-year-old son left the office after a few minutes because she and the doctor did not understand each other.

“He took a quick look, just spoke to me in English and handed me a piece of paper that I didn’t understand […]. It lasted five minutes, because I didn’t understand what I said to him, and I didn’t understand what he said to me, “said Alexandra Daoust-Laniel.

His son Rafael had small pimples caused by a bacteria he contracted at daycare.

He had an appointment in French at the clinic. Only in the building was he told that the doctor spoke monolingual English.

“I was never informed when I made an appointment. I expected it to be in French and felt bad that I couldn’t [de me faire comprendre]I felt inadequate,” he says.

Nevertheless, he went to the pharmacy with the prescription he bought. But another bad surprise awaited him, because the prescribed medicine is not recommended for children under 8 years old. His son is only 3 years old.

Fortunately, CHU Sainte-Justine finally contacted him the following week.

Via email, the Clinique de la Cité Vaudreuil claims the dermatologist only practiced at the facility for two months. Even if the patient cannot be served in French, the Clinic claims that the doctor, in addition to being educated in Quebec, speaks and understands the language.

A young mother from Saint-Zotique, who just gave birth at Lakeshore Hospital in Montreal, had to rely on her husband’s translation to understand the health status of her son, who was born with only one kidney. .

“I, I don’t understand anything, I’m not bilingual,” says Caroline Therrien. My boyfriend translated with nurses, specialists, I was involved with everyone…”

During the delivery on July 7, the gynecologist who accompanied her spoke in French. But little Logan was born with only one kidney, so he needs to be closely monitored.

“The pediatrician only spoke English, the nurses only spoke English,” she recalls. He was then informed about the blood tests and the probe to be inserted. And it was his wife who served as the “messenger”.

“Fortunately, he speaks very good English. But I had to call CLSC back to speak to the nurses in French,” she said.

If he had to do it over again, he would go somewhere else. “We were very disappointed, he even had his health booklet in English,” said the young mother.

The woman, whose mother was admitted to the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital, regrets that she spent her last days in an English-speaking environment.

“I’m happy to be there,” raves Véronique Gauthier, whose 58-year-old mother suffered a ruptured aneurysm. He regrets that his mother, who has passed away, spent the last month of her life in an English environment, in a language she did not know.

“I know he was unconscious most of the time, but it’s important for a French-speaking person to care in his own language,” he said.

It was also difficult for Mrs. Gauthier’s relatives, who had to constantly serve as an interpreter.

He noticed that everyone in the unit spoke English; even the heavily French-accented nurse spoke to her colleagues in English.

Although he has witnessed staffing shortages in medical facilities, he does not believe this means “we have to cut back on French language and services.”

He did not complain because he was afraid of reprisals. “You don’t dare, because the one you love is taken care of,” he says, emphasizing that he will have to be followed by the same team.

The Montrealer, who frequents St. Mary’s Hospital Center, is often troubled when asked to provide care in French.

Lilianne Paquette-Lin, 39, says: “When we pretend to be French, we get the impression that we don’t fit in.”

As he lives in the neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges, St. Mary’s is the closest hospital to her home. That’s why he often goes there for his meetings.

“We have a lot of trouble caring in French,” he said. Or even if the consultation is conducted in French – as was the case recently with his mother – the medical documents remain in English.

“You have to ask first. The documents are always in English,” he continues. She lost count of the number of times a doctor or resident couldn’t speak French to her, so another staff member had to translate.

He admits it’s just an impression; a hospitalist has never reprimanded her, but she sighs or rolls her eyes when she asks to be served in French.

“I speak English, but when you’re sick, you don’t necessarily have the ability to explain your symptoms well and you want to get a proper diagnosis,” she pleads.

A mother from the South Shore marvels at how English is a “priority” language after several visits to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“I was surprised by how much priority English was given,” says Annie Rouleau, who has been coming to the hospital for orthopedic checkups with her teenage son Samuel, who was the victim of a scooter accident, for several months.

“He doesn’t understand anything, I’m the one who translates the most […]. Otherwise, when I asked for services in French, someone was there to translate,” the 44-year-old mother explains.

To this Saint-Amable resident, it’s clear that doctors don’t “practice” French, which they may have to learn in order to get a license to practice.

He realized that English was the language of use after speaking to a Swiss doctor in French, but he wrote the report in English before giving it to him.

With a shortage of manpower, he laments that a doctor who does not speak French must be accompanied by a nurse or physiotherapist to translate, for example, when these specialists can be engaged elsewhere.

A Montreal mother feared her son’s appendicitis pains were being misunderstood by an English-speaking doctor at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and suggested they send them home.

“I had such an impression, and I don’t know if I expressed myself well, but [que la médecin] he did not understand the intensity of the pain [de mon fils] ; I don’t know if it’s a language barrier or not,” says Chloé Caravela, whose son Nassim is 4 years old.

Only after tests, a shift change and the arrival of a French-speaking emergency physician did they discover a perforated appendix that required surgery and a five-day hospital stay in the summer of 2021.

Ms. Caravela considers herself bilingual, but “the medical field is not an everyday jargon,” she says. His son knows only a limited level of English.

He mentions that his son was embarrassed in front of the doctor who did not even say “bonjour” in French. He was no longer screaming in pain like at home.

Mrs. Caravela tried to explain that her son had a fever, was vomiting and feared appendicitis, but treatment was limited to Tylenol.

When he was offered to go home, told that the stomach pain would go away, he insisted on more tests. He later underwent blood tests and an ultrasound, which revealed the extent of his ailments.

Then the French-speaking doctor came. “It was easier for me to express myself,” she recalls.

A mother laments that her 13-year-old son had to translate the words of an English-speaking doctor at the Montreal Children’s Hospital because no one could help them.

“I came here with a child and I couldn’t be served in French in my province,” laments Cynthia Claude about an incident last year.

“I don’t want to know more about this hospital, I’m going to Sainte-Justine,” he said.

Mrs. Claude’s 13-year-old son was seen by an orthopedist after breaking a finger. However, the mother regrets that the latter refused to speak French to her and made no effort to find another employee who could translate.

“I don’t speak English, I didn’t understand anything! he says. And he didn’t care. My son translated as best he could. »

At follow-up three weeks later, another staff member was present to translate the doctor’s comments. The mother, a resident of Coteau-du-Lac, now prefers to go to Ontario, where she says she is better served in French.

“Even the doctors speak French with me there and we go faster! “, he notes.

An Eastern Township father is upset that his 18-year-old daughter, who is battling a rare form of cancer, had to translate for doctors during her hospitalization at Montreal General Hospital this summer.

“It’s inhumane,” Eric Pruneau, 48, said angrily of his daughter, Emmy. He had to have his left arm amputated due to sarcoma – soft tissue cancer.

“All the inhabitants were English,” Mr. Pruneau immediately noted. He often applauds the excellent work of many French-speaking surgeons and other specialists. But it was the residents who went to see the family for daily follow-ups or reports of exams, and that in Shakespeare’s language.

” [Le français]it is not de facto, raise your hand. If we say nothing, it will be in English […], you should cry,” she cries. And to avoid tension, the girl agreed to translate for the whole family.

He also noted that the care received from nurses or orderlies is more humane if those workers speak French. “It was day and night,” he said. If the person only spoke English, it wasn’t intimacy, it was speed. »

During her most recent visit to the Jewish General Hospital, the 32-year-old Montrealer couldn’t believe that the service, from reception to doctor, was in English.

Upon reaching the entrance, Vincent Brillant was asked to wash his hands in English. He then replied in French that I was looking for dermatology and again in English.

At the reception, he was greeted again in English. But he breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor who called his name had a French accent.

“I told myself, ‘It’s going to be okay,'” she recalls. In front of him, the doctor asked him: English or French ? “It’s a pretty strange statement when you think about it for two seconds,” he said.

He was directed to the McGill University residency office where another doctor was waiting for him. He asks her the same question again.

“I told him ‘French’ and at that moment I see a moment of stress on his face. I guess I really surprised him,” says the 32-year-old.

To avoid any misunderstanding, he was asked to continue in English, which he declined. Therefore, the first French-speaking doctor worked as an interpreter with an English-speaking resident.

“I spoke, his colleague translated, the other one [médecin] answered in English and his colleague translated,” Mr. Brillant describes.

“I couldn’t believe that this happened in the public health building […]. I was blown away,” he gasps.

A patient at the Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital in Laval finds it unfortunate that the complaint form last August was only available in English.

Catherine Messier says she requested a French version but was denied.

“They told me that there is something left, even if I am not happy, but they don’t have time,” complains the patient.

“It doesn’t make sense, they don’t respect the law! adds Ms. Messier.

In the end, he did not complain.

“I waited 20 minutes to get a document in English. It discouraged me. »

Do you want to condemn the situation in the health care network? contact our journalist: heloise.archambault@quebecormedia.com

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