Last Updated on January 24, 2019
The city of Surrey, just on the outskirts of the Vancouver metropolitan area in British Columbia, has been changing its policies to adapt to a wave of immigration in recent years.
Though many areas of public service have had to adapt to growing diversity in the population, it is perhaps in the field of health care where such adaptations are most challenging and most needed. In 2005 the Surrey Memorial Hospital hired its first diversity manager and has since expanded its focus to the entire region to work on and implement initiatives directed toward newcomers.
One such initiative is having interpreters on hand for patients who speak Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. Translation services are also available in 150 other languages if advanced notice is given. Staff members at the hospital are also welcome to take part in conversational Punjabi classes after hours.
Besides language, traditions and beliefs can also become a barrier to effective health care. Newcomers might be more hesitant to sign a do-not-resuscitate form or become too reliant on relatives for assistance when their physician wants them to do things for themselves.
Additionally, health care providers are adapting their spaces to accommodate for larger families as well as learning which populations are more susceptible to which diseases.
“If you look at the research, when you are providing services that are culturally sensitive and the patients are understanding what the doctor is saying to them, what they’re requiring that patient to do, there are shorter stays in the hospital,” says Jas Cheema, Surrey Memorial hospital’s manager of diversity. “And there are not as many repeat visits so it ends up benefiting the health authority and the taxpayer.”
Source: Montreal Gazette