Chloe Viegas is still recovering from a car crash that she was involved in less than two weeks ago.
She suffered minor injuries and was transported to the Lachine Hospital.
The 19-year-old was admitted to the emergency room, where she says the staff were unable to communicate with her in English.
“I was like, ‘Can you speak English?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t know how,'” said Viegas. “So I said, ‘Can you find someone who can speak English?’ and she’s like, ‘There’s nobody here.'”
Viegas says she understands French and knows how to speak it, but says the collision left her shaken and disoriented and she preferred to speak in her mother tongue when it came to medical terms.
“The second I spoke English, the guy would roll his eyes,” she said.
“I don’t understand — we’re bilingual here. As much as you want me to speak French, I would like for you to speak English to me.”
Viegas’s mother says she wasn’t allowed to accompany her daughter in the emergency room for the six hours she spent there, and says it was infuriating to hear that staff couldn’t care for her daughter in English.
“I think they should be ashamed,” said Marie-Claire Viegas. “I think someone should look into it, and I think the Anglo community in Quebec needs to start standing up and saying, ‘Enough.'”
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) said staff members always try to address people in the language in which they are most comfortable, and if that isn’t possible, staff are expected to seek assistance.
“We cannot comment on individual patient cases, and we apologize if any patient has had difficulty communicating in their language of choice. If any patient has concerns about a lack of access to the language of their choice, we ask them to contact the hospital ombudsman for assistance.”
Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet said the situation is unacceptable.
“There is no excuse,” he said. “We’re in 2020, and the law is clear — anyone in Quebec is entitled to understand and tell medical staff what is going on so that adequate health-care treatment be cared for the patient.”
Viegas said she left the hospital that day not fully understanding her diagnosis, but added that she spoke to her family doctor soon after, who confirmed in English that she had suffered a concussion.