Yukon hospitals looking to improve French services

The Yukon Hospital Corporation’s website will be getting a facelift in the next few weeks to make it more accessible to the territory’s francophones.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation’s website will be getting a facelift in the next few weeks to make it more accessible to the territory’s francophones.

The bilingual website is the first major project to come out of a memorandum of understanding signed late last year between the hospital corporation and the Yukon’s French Language Services Directorate.

Yukon is officially the third most bilingual jurisdiction in Canada with 13 per cent of its population speaking both official languages, according to the directorate.

A two-year pilot project aimed at improving bilingual signs, documentation and awareness of French services at the hospital wrapped up in late 2015.

As a result, most of the signs in all three of the Yukon’s hospitals are bilingual and about 80 per cent of documents are now available in both languages, according to hospital spokesperson James Low.

Efforts to make French translators available were less successful. As part of the pilot project, staff at the hospital’s specialist clinic were supposed to greet patients in both English and French and then inform French speakers that an over-the-phone translator was available if they needed it, Low said.

It’s a service that is available across the hospital but data shows that translators were only used about 10 times a year, Low said.

It appears the service wasn’t being consistently offered by staff or asked for by patients, he said.

“What it really comes down to is a lack of awareness that it’s still available.”

Phone translation is going to continue to be available 24 hours a day. Low said the hospital is working to increase public awareness of the service.

“If you do have people who speak French but you’re never offered the service, because we’re so used to not getting the services, we don’t ask for it anymore,” said l’association franco-yukonnaise  executive director Isabelle Salesse.

While over-the-phone translation is better than nothing, Salesse said, in-person conversations are ideal. That’s particularly true when dealing with very personal and possibly frightening health matters, she said.

It’s important to identify hospital staff who can speak French and which services need the most francophone people, she said.

As part of the new MOU, Yukon’s French Services Directorate is starting a new capacity assessment to try and answer those questions.

Director Patrice Tremblay says his office will be looking at identifying bilingual staff,  as well as any gaps that still exist in forms, documentation and signage.

“In the longer term, the objective is to maximize the capacities in place and to be strategic as to how we use the bilingual resources,” he said in an email.

“There are already many bilingual staff working at the hospital as we speak.”

The three-year plan is to have French services that are visible, available and publicized, Low said.

The Yukon branch of the national Francophone Health Network just finished its own needs assessment of all health services in the Yukon, Salesse said. The results are not in yet.

It will be important that groups like the network are part of plans for the hospital going forward, she said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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