Meet the man tasked with helping Anglos navigate the Quebec City healthcare system

Steve Guimond is Quebec City’s new patient navigator, a position specifically designed to help anglophones find their way within the healthcare system — especially if they’re arriving from eastern Quebec.

New position provides support to anglophones from regions seeking medical care in province's capital

"The position is about putting patients at ease," says Steve Guimond, the new patient navigator in Quebec City. (Submitted by Steve Guimond)

Travelling to Quebec City for health services can be challenging, especially for anglophones unfamiliar with local hospitals.

That's exactly the situation dozens of eastern Quebecers describe when they have to travel to the provincial capital for medical procedures they can't get at home.

It's a problem Steve Guimond is hoping he can help resolve.

Guimond is Quebec City's new patient navigator — a position set up through the Quebec Community Health and Social Services Foundation (QCHF) to help English-speaking Quebecers from the regions find their way around the city and the healthcare system.

"The position is about putting patients at ease," said Guimond, who moved to Quebec City from Montreal four years ago.

The role could mean anything from meeting people at the airport, to helping them get through the admission process at the hospital, or even just sitting down for a coffee and a chat to calm nerves.

The 45-year-old father of two doesn't have a medical background, but he does know first-hand what it's like to have to go to Quebec City without knowing your way around.

When his family lived in Montreal, both his children needed access to specialized services which were only offered in the province's capital, he said.

"We had to come a number of times for extended periods," he said.

Through the eyes of a patient

Guimond said even though his family is bilingual, he still felt they were thrown into what can sometimes be a tumultuous system.

Being fluent in English and knowing the city well, he fit the criteria for the position and applied. 

Guimond said documents are not always translated and patients need to understand the essential information.

"There are many anglophone patients coming to the city and it's their right to have the information served to them in English," said Guimond.

He felt it was important to approach the position through the eyes of someone who's never set foot in a Quebec City hospital.

When he found out he got the position last month, he visited all of the hospitals in the city to get a better idea of their physical layouts and admission processes.

"Studies have shown that just walking into the hospital is the most difficult part," he said, "because that's not where you're going to find the anglophone speakers on staff."   

Guimond says patients will find more English-speakers once they see their doctors, but there are several steps to take first — from the security guards to the admissions staff.

A long time coming

Cathy Brown is just one of the people who's been working tirelessly for years to make the patient navigator position a reality.

She's the executive director of the Committee for Anglophone Social Action (CASA) on the Gaspé coast which helped spearhead the campaign for the new job.

Brown said when people in the regions find out they have a serious health condition, they can be flown out in a matter of hours.

And she said often those patients are elderly unilingual anglophones whose family members aren't allowed to travel with them, and who are already in distress about their diagnosis.

"Throw the language issue in there and it leaves you and your family really upset," she said.

Clear need for role

Jennifer Johnson, the executive director of QCHF, said the need for the service was clear when anglophones in the region started offering money to help create the role. 

"They really see this as extremely important to access health and social services," she said.
Jennifer Johnson is the executive director of the Quebec Health and Social Services Foundation which helped spearhead the creation of the new role. (Steve Guimond)

Johnson said money came from both public and private sources, and now the foundation has the funds to keep the position in place for a year.

But she said the goal is to make the patient navigator a long-term role. 

Brown said CASA plans to follow up with patients and offer their feedback to Guimond and Johnson.

"We're looking forward to hearing the good news stories when people come back, " she said.

You can reach patient navigator Steve Guimond by phone at (418) 932-0095 or by email.