Paramedics not required to speak English: Urgences Sante
Ambulance technicians shouldn't have to speak English, officials from Urgences Sante said Thursday.
The first responder is replying to criticism after a paramedic from CETAM refused to speak English to a family while their two-year-old daughter was having a seizure in Vaudreuil over the weekend.
The paramedic told Mark Bergeron, who is bilingual, “Non, moi je parle francais,” when the father asked to communicate in English during the emergency.
The story infuriated many, but Urgences Sante said while bilingualism is best, it’s skills, not language, that come first when hiring paramedics.
“The criteria is not that you are bilingual,” said David Sasson of Urgences Sante. “We always encourage you are, it's an asset, but we will not hire you over another if you're bilingual or not… It will be based on your clinical experience and your medical experience.”
That said, politics should stay out of health care, said Sasson.
“When it comes to do anything to do with health, you're in a hospital, you're in an ambulance, anything to do with that politics shouldn't be an issue,” he said.
Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet said not only should it not be an issue, it’s crucial that English-speaking patients be treated in their own language.
“How can you be good if you don't know what your patient is asking you?” he said.
“It doesn't make sense. You have to be at least functional in both languages, to say the least,” he said.
The Parti Quebecois agreed, saying health issues should trump language issues
“My position is clear. When you're in need of medical help, you may need a blood test -- you don't need a language test,” said minister Responsible for Anglophones, Jean-Francois Lisee.
Urgences Sante says, in spite of its language edict, there are very few language complaints.
“For us, the patient is more important and we find at the end of the day that one way or another the paramedics are always able to communicate with the patient, whether it's through a family member or a friend,” said Sasson.
An internal investigation is being launched to determine whether politics trumped emergency care.