Sudbury hospital vows to hire more French-speaking workers

When it comes to hospital visits in Sudbury, people are most concerned about care and communication around that care.

Access to French services in healthcare is important for patient safety, nursing advocate says

Sudbury's Health Sciences North says it's working on getting more french speakers.

Health Sciences North says it's being vigilant in its search for more French-speaking employees.

The Sudbury hospital was designated a French language service provider about three years ago — but, in the past, it's faced challenges in determining which jobs require staff to speak the language.

"We are no longer being flexible," said Rhonda Watson, vice president of human resources at HSN.

"If a job is designated as French-speaking, then we are actively pursuing a successful applicant who has the ability to speak French. And if we can't find that individual initially, then we are going back and trying again."

Paul-Andre Gauthier is the president of the French Nursing Association of Ontario and has taught nursing at College Boreal in Sudbury. He says that, over the years, he's heard many stories about the problems patients have faced getting care in their own language. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

'This is not safe'

The president of the French Nursing Association of Ontario says French services are needed so that patients understand what treatment they're receiving.

"There's a need for the community and for the hospitals to look at that more intensely," Paul-Andre Gauthier said.

"What are we going to do to help the Francophone community to feel like they're welcome and that we're helping them? And then, we won't have the wrong diagnosis."

Gauthier said he regularly hears from the Francophone community about the lack of French speakers in health care. He said hospitals should work with schools to recruit staff who can speak the language.

Health Sciences North has been designated a French language service provider since 2013. But in the past, it's faced challenges delivering on the service. (CBC)

"What I hear is that people don't receive the services in French when they need it," he said.

"Or they [are told], 'Oh, we'll make you wait a couple more hours in emerg to get you somebody who speaks French.' No, they should have people who speak French in emerg. They should not wait an extra two hours. This is not safe."

It's critical to have French speakers working in mental health, pediatrics, emergency and the intensive care unit, Gauthier added.

Meanwhile at HSN, there are educational services available for employees who wish to work on their French language skills.

with files from Samantha Lui, edited/packaged by Wendy Bird