Alberta Health Services announced Wednesday that it has added information on its website in the eight languages it says are most commonly requested for medical translation and interpretation in the province.
Translations, in both video and print formats, are available in Arabic, Simplified Chinese/Mandarin, Traditional Chinese/Cantonese, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tigrinya.
The websites for the languages contain information about emergency department wait times in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer as well as urgent care centres elsewhere.
It also has information about care options, how to access services in languages other than English across the health system and accessing interpreters and health advice in 240 other languages by phoning Health Link (811).
“AHS is here to help Albertans of all cultures and ethnicities get the care they need when they need it,” Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said.
According to AHS, over the past year, 1.2 million minutes of telephone interpretation services have been provided to patients across Alberta in 81 languages. The health authority said it’s expanding to also offer video remote interpretation in 35 languages.
“Our organization embraces diversity and inclusion, and this project expands our ongoing efforts to ensure all Albertans know how to access health services and feel welcome doing so,” Yiu said.
READ MORE: Alberta government eyeing ‘significant changes’ to health-care system in 2020
AHS said its interpretation and translation services program connects patients in real time to supports it says are available 24/7.
The health authority said the program will allow Albertans going to their family doctor, a pharmacy or any other non-AHS setting to access language help when needed.
“Whether it is a routine checkup or an emergency situation, accessing medical care while navigating a language barrier can add to an already stressful situation,” Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer said.
“This step will remove barriers in the health-care system for many Albertans.”
The language initiative is a long-term project AHS said it is committed to expanding by adding more information to the existing pages, adding even more languages and providing content that addresses barriers for people who are deaf.
“Providing translated information online reflects the diversity of Albertans and helps meet the needs of patients and families,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said.
READ MORE: AHS rolls out new ambulances with increased safety features for patients, paramedics
AHS said it’s the largest user of professional medical interpretation in Canada for patients speaking Arabic (20 per cent) and Tigrinya (12 per cent), followed by Punjabi, Vietnamese, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin (about six per cent each).
The Alberta Healthy Living Program and Better Choices Better Health Program also offer services in other languages, the province said.