Elderly man says doctor at CHUM mistreated him because he doesn’t speak French

Polish-born Montrealer files complaint against CHUM doctor
WATCH: An elderly Polish immigrant is sounding the alarm after a language dispute at the CHUM superhospital. Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports.

Zbignew Malysa moved to Canada from Poland 30 years ago.

Despite some early struggles, he’s always felt at home in Montreal.

An incident this week at the CHUM French superhospital made him feel, for the first time, maybe he should return to Poland.

“You don’t speak French, sometimes they treat you like an enemy,” the 67-year-old said. “I’m not an enemy, I’m just a human being not speaking French.”

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Suffering from prostate problems and hypertension, Malysa’s doctor sent him to a specialist at the CHUM superhospital.

On Wednesday, two young residents first treated him.

Malysa understands French, but can’t speak it so the residents spoke to him in English.

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He says they took their time, filling out several requisition forms. They told him he needed a colonoscopy and some blood tests before getting the urologist, Dr. Luc Valiquette, to see him.

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According to Malysa, the mood changed as soon as the doctor entered the room.

Malysa says the doctor refused to look at him, and would only speak to the two residents.  He says the doctor began making fun of his European heritage and his first name.

“He started joking about my name, zbig… zbig… I was finding this not so funny,” Malysa told Global News.

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Malysa claims the doctor said Eastern Europeans are taking advantage of Quebec’s medical system.

He ripped up the requisition forms for the suggested tests, saying they were too expensive, according to Malysa.

“I cannot believe we are sitting there, I have a problem with blood in my urine, high blood pressure, why he is talking about this?” Malysa said. “He never asked me any questions about how I am feeling.”

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Malysa claims the doctor asked him in English why, after 30 years, he never learned French.

He then walked out, telling Malysa he would only see him at his Verdun clinic.

The incident left Malysa distraught.

“I can’t believe it was happening you know. Why?” he said from his apartment near the Atwater Market. “I’ve never been treated like that before.”

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Global News spoke with the urologist, Dr. Luc Valiquette, over the phone.

He denies mistreating Malysa and says he never made fun of him.

Valiquette says he started laughing with the residents, but it had nothing to do with Malysa and he wasn’t making fun of him.

He says it’s likely Malysa misunderstood the French.

“I did not treat him differently from any other patient,” Valiquette said.  “If it’s his perception, I won’t change anything and I am sorry for that if it’s his perception, but it was certainly not my intent.”

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He does admit asking Malysa why he never learned French.

“I said ‘you have been here how long?’ and I asked him ‘you never had time to learn French?’ His answer was ‘no’ but he said he learned five languages. I said ‘OK.'”

Valiquette added he has treated thousands of English patients and has no issues with the language.

He insists he is a federalist who believes in a multi-lingual society.

Valiquette did tell Malysa he would see him at his Verdun clinic because the wait times at the CHUM are too long.

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Malysa says on Thursday he got a call to see Valiquette on Friday.

Despite serious concerns about his own health, he says he won’t go.

“I never need to see him again in my life,” Malysa said.

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Malysa says he has filed a complaint with the CHUM’s ombudsmen and Quebec’s College of Physicians.

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The CHUM didn’t comment on the specifics of the case and said the necessary authorities were looking into it.

The hospital added it treats patients no matter what language they speak.

It also said Valiquette maintains the whole incident was a misunderstanding, and planned to communicate with the family.

The College says it does not comment on complaints against individual doctors unless a sanction is being made and said Valiquette has never received a complaint.