Providers of healthcare and the newcomers to Windsor, Ontario fail to communicate properly because they are hampered by linguistic problems, according to the multicultural council of the city and the local health unit.
Camila Alves, who is the Multicultural Council of Windsor’s community diversity educator, explained that these newcomers face the difficult task of navigating the local health system because they still lack English language skills.
Alves added that the problem poses danger to the patients. She was one of the speakers in Tuesday’s conference with the medical community and the members of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. In order for the language barrier to be broken down, Alves said that there must be long-term commitment from all concerned parties.
The challenge faced by the immigrants and newcomers is the right person to look for and where to go when they need medical assistance. The results of their research and what the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) had done with the data actually led to the newcomers having to wait for a long time to seek medical assistance, thereby causing them to be emergency cases instead.
Aside from this is the funding issue. Public hospitals are provided funds for language services. However, private practices do not have that luxury and if they have to provide language services as well, the cost of it is passed on to the patient, and often times, they could ill-afford to pay for that.
As they see it, this could also be one of the reasons why patients often defer their treatment. Alves said that they are charged $79.10 for a 2-hour work by interpreters who are professionally trained to work with them through the multicultural council. They still get charged the full amount even if the session does not last for two hours, because that is the minimum fixed rate.
Private clinics need more language services
Language barrier is indeed a big hurdle, according to Dr. Erona Raza. She has a medical practice at the Jackson Park Healthcare Center located in Essex County. As a family doctor, she is very aware of communication problems. Her first language is Bengali and she also understands Hindi and Urdu. She said that some of her Bengali-speaking patients found her via Google. Still she sees other patients who are non-English speakers, which she says is very challenging. She noted it is quite an issue with people who came from China or Japan and to facilitate understanding, they would often bring an English-speaking friend or spouse to interpret for them. Dr. Raza added that when there was no one available that they could bring, often the patient would just cancel their appointment.
Camila Alves and Dr. Raza agree that the cost of language services is very costly and something that newcomers could not afford. They do not have the capability to afford the additional cost when they go to a private clinic or hospital, therefore something should be done so that the language service could be funded.
Windsor is attractive to immigrants due to the availability of jobs in the county, with 21 percent of the population born outside of Canada. It is a major car manufacturing center. It is also a hub for government services, education, tourism and automotive-related industries. Arabs and South Asians make up big slices in the population, as well as Chinese, Southeast Asians, including Filipinos and Latin Americans. There are also quite a number of West Asians and East Asians such as Japanese and Koreans in Windsor.