Patience prescribed for English patients

If you’re an English-speaker and you need health and social services, don’t hold your breath. Laval’s already-problematic English-language access to health and social care promises to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.

Significant progress was expected after the 2011 Networking and Partnership Initiative (NPI) brought community stakeholders, local associations and Centre de santé et services sociaux (CSSS) healthcare officials together to acknowledge and better fulfill the needs of English-speaking clientele.

Laval’s non-francophone population has grown robustly. Projections based on Statistics Canada’s 2006 and 2011 census show that non-francophones already likely comprise a majority of Laval’s population today.

NPI made some headway. Its main accomplishment: translating some hitherto French-only CSSS Laval information documents and websites into English. It also pinpointed limitations to English access and services, which prompted some corrective action.

NPI continues to meet on a regular basis and provide meaningful input about the state of ongoing projects.

However a new law introduced by Health Minister Gaétan Barrette last year upset the applecart. It revamped how the province’s health and social services network is run. In doing so, the law upended all the erstwhile efforts to support Laval’s English linguistic minority.

Article 108 of the new law obliges the government to form regional committees to sound out opinion about health establishments and their programs to facilitate access to services in English. They size-up existing programs and suggest improvements. This regional committee will ultimately replace the current NPI group.

Laval’s health care authority (CISSS) is in the process of forming its committee, which will comprise 7-11 local English-speaking community representatives.

“In May 2016, CISSS will receive a list of all Laval’s organizations that promote the interests of English-speaking people, as identified by the provincial committee for the delivery of health and social services in English,” explained CISSS spokeswoman Paula Beaudoin. “Once this list is received, we will call for nominations amongst these organizations. Members of the regional committee will be selected by the CISSS board of directors from among these preselected candidates.”

Despite several requests, CISSS declined to specify when this new committee will first meet, or outline its agenda. CISSS declined The Suburban’s request to talk to the CISSS representative to the English community, who already sits in at NPI meetings and is expected to be working closely with the future committee.

Health Minister Barrette’s spokeswoman Caroline Gingras brushed off the concern. She told The Suburban that the lack of transparency is “normal, due to the new organization and governance act.”

The law to reorganize Quebec’s health and social services system lumped each and every health and social services in the city under the CISSS Laval umbrella. Centre jeunesse de Laval youth protection facility, intellectual and developmental deficiency social service provider CRDI Normand-Laramée, the Jewish rehabilitation hospital and others saw their services centralized, their resources shared and their communication departments regrouped.

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