“I love that I have the ability to speak French with my patients,” said Bourdon, who is also Health Sciences North's chief of staff and vice-president of medical and academic affairs.
“I can see how much they appreciate it. Many of these patients are more comfortable speaking in French when they are describing what's wrong or how they are feeling, and in particular in distress.
“In the ED, it's my job to be a problem-solver. I can solve problems best when I can share as much information with my patients as possible without something getting lost in translation.”
Given the language skills of hospital staff such as Bourdon, Health Sciences North has recently been designated as a provider of French-language services by the Government of Ontario.
Under the French Language Services Act, an agency receives its designation when it satisfies the following conditions:
-Offers quality services in French on a permanent basis.
-Guarantees access to its services in French.
-Has Francophones on its board of directors and in its executive leadership.
-Develops a written policy for services in French that is adopted by the board of directors and sets out the agency's responsibilities with respect to services in French.
In Greater Sudbury, about 27 per cent of the population is Francophone, and across northeastern Ontario, that number is about 25 per cent, a press release from the hospital said.
Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs Madeleine Meilleur was on hand at the Health Sciences North on Sept. 11 to congratulate hospital officials on its newly acquired designation.
“This designation under the French Language Services Act officially recognizes the profound commitment of Health Sciences North to actively offer patient services in French,” she said, in the press release.
“It is a testament to the vitality of the Francophone community in Northern Ontario and will have a highly positive impact on the quality of life of Franco-Ontarians both within and beyond the Sudbury area.”
Meilleur, a Francophone who said she didn't learn English until she was 20, said when somebody is sick, they want to use their mother tongue.
“When we're sick, it seems like part of our brains stop, and we want to express ourselves in our own first language,” she said.
Health Sciences North CEO Dr. Denis Roy said the hospital has been working on becoming more bilingual for more than a decade.
“We've been working quite a long time on it,” he said. “The reason we really pushed is because we moved onto one site. It would have been impossible to do on three sites.”
Roy said clear communication is necessary for the best possible outcomes for the hospital's patients.
“Clear communication is at the very heart of patient-centred care,” he said. “It is our responsibility to ensure that Francophones in the northeast who come to us for care can be heard and understood in their mother tongue.”