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Language barrier causes St. Mary’s Hospital to allegedly refuse services to elderly patient

An elderly Asian women and her family claim she was refused treatment at St-Mary's Hospital due to a language barrier. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines explains in this exclusive report, one lawyer claims the hospital had a responsibility to do more.

Lien Quan and her family have filed a formal complaint against St. Mary’s Hospital after they claim hospital staff refused to provide necessary care to Quan because she did not speak English.

The 91-year-old went to the hospital, which is located in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, for a regular eye exam. Her son, Ming Fung Lai, accompanied her.

The interview with Global News was conducted with Ming Fun Lai and Quan’s granddaughter Tiffany Lai, who translated from Chinese to English.

Upon arrival, Ming Fung Lai said he noticed it was a very hostile environment and he felt that he and his mother were being disregarded.

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Fung Lai says the staff member was blunt and rudely proceeded to rush through the appointment.

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Fung Lai speaks very little English, and his mother neither speaks nor understands English. They both only speak Chinese.

They said the experience was difficult for them because the staff member spoke very quickly.

“The employee raised their voice aggressively and said she would not serve them,” said Tiffany Lai, translating for Quan.

She says the staff member got frustrated and started yelling, asking why Quan didn’t go to “a Chinese hospital instead or a private clinic,” according to Lai.

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In a statement to Global News, St. Mary’s hospital said it could not comment on this specific case due to privacy concerns.

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The hospital did say, however, that “A patient that is not fluent in either official language may choose to be accompanied by a person that speaks either French or English.”

The statement continued to say that the hospital may provide an interpreter among its staff, or “turn to the Inter-regional Interpreters Bank to facilitate access to health and social services.”

Officials from the hospital say that St. Mary’s “serves a highly diverse clientele, and in that regard, we make every effort to find solutions to better serve the needs of all ethnic communities.”

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Medical malpractice lawyer Jean-Pierre Menard says it is mandatory by law for hospitals in Quebec to provide services in English and French but not in other languages.

Menard also added that hospitals are required to assist patients in finding the proper services.

“The hospital has to take care of the patients until the other institution can take care of them,” Menard said.

Meanwhile, the Lai family wants justice for the mistreatment they say their grandmother received.

“I just want the employee to be held accountable and maybe the hospital should implement a retraining,” Tiffany Lai said.

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