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Let’s talk about language access in health care

Language matters, especially in health care where miscommunications can have life-altering consequences. Read about some of the services that Provincial Language Services offer to promote inclusion.
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Language matters, especially in health care where miscommunications can have life-altering consequences. Mutual understanding between patients and health-care providers is essential to delivering effective care and achieving positive health outcomes. Thanks to Provincial Language Services’ (PLS) focus on creating equitable language and communication access, health-care professionals across British Columbia have access to a number of services that promote inclusion and help bridge the language and communication gap. This is convenient, as the new 2021 census data revealed that linguistic diversity is on the rise in Canada with one in four people who have a first language other than English or French.

“Equity and inclusion are core principles of PLS services,” says Kiran Malli, director, PLS. 

“The services we provide are dedicated to making access to health information fair and equitable for all patients we serve; be it an information exchange between a patient and provider or public health information available on a PHSA website."

In celebration of International Translation Day, read about some of the services that PLS offers below.

Interpreting services

PLS provides language interpreting services for those who do not speak any of Canada’s official languages, Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing, and immigrant and refugee populations. Language interpreting services are available in more than 200 languages from American Sign Language to Zyphe, and are also available to health-care providers working with B.C. health authorities, community physicians and other community-allied health professionals. 

PLS provides interpreting services through different modalities to offer flexibility in our approach to creating access:

  • On-site interpreting
  • Virtual Health Visit Interpreting
  • Video Remote Interpreting
  • Over the phone Interpreting (spoken language only)
It is available 24/7 and provided at no charge to B.C. patients and/or their families.  

A qualified interpreter optimizes the delivery of safe and equitable health care for patients with various cultural and language needs. This service should be requested directly by health-care providers. 

Learn more

Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Services

Sign language interpreting, intervenor, and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services are available for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing (DDBHH) patients when accessing most health-care services in British Columbia.  

In compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, DDBHH individuals have a legal right to access these services at medical appointments. The obligation to ensure communication access rests with the health-care organization and health-care staff.

As the program responsible for delivering these services, PLS works to support health-care organizations and staff to fulfil this obligation. 

PLS also provides staff consultation, education, community engagement, and outreach with DDBHH communities.

Learn more

Translation services

PLS provides full-scope translation services across B.C. health authorities on a fee-for-service basis. Translations for written content can be provided in more than 50 languages, including American Sign language, for print, web or video. Other services are also available such as proofreading, layout design, focus group testing, voiceovers and more.
Learn more

Francophone Services

Francophone Services provides information and guidance to the francophone community as they navigate the health-care system in B.C. This can include support with engaging the services of an interpreter for health appointments. The Francophone Services team helps to identify the needs of the francophone community and works to create solutions to help bridge any barriers to care. For example, Café de Paris was designed to help health-care professionals bolster their French language skills. This online French language training program was implemented to help meet the demand for health professionals to increase their French-speaking skills so Francophone patients have the opportunity to receive service in their preferred language.

Learn more

Breaking down barriers to care

Diversity is what makes our province so wonderful. There are a number of resources you can take advantage of as you think about ways to better connect with your linguistically diverse patients. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier to high-quality, effective care. Communication is an indispensable part of health care and ensuring all patients have the same access to communication is vital to patient safety.

Learn more about Provincial Language Services and the resources they offer by visiting the PLS website

SOURCE: Let’s talk about language access in health care ( )
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