No case today.
One of the problems of a multicultural country such as Australia is that we sometimes have a language barrier with the patients. This is reflected by an incident that happened a few years ago.
I was wandering back into the department after getting lunch when I noticed an old Chinese woman at the front desk who was having quite a time of it. It seems she had come in looking for directions. The problem was that she spoke absolutely no English, but was waving a piece of paper.
The front desk were having none of it. ‘Not here, ‘ they kept repeating, ‘try somewhere else’. Being an humanitarian at heart and, wanting to set an example, I intervened. The woman had one word written on the paper: ‘Liu’.
‘Is this your name? Are you trying to make an appointment?’ I asked with the greatest sympathy (think Mr Darcy – BBC adaption). This was greeted by incomprehension.
More waving of paper.
Now, at that time we had a relief wards-person who was a young, female, ABC (Australian Born Chinese). She just happened to be passing and seeing the problem, immediately offered her help. She was doing a degree at the university and was covering for two weeks as a holiday job. What luck.
‘Can I help?’ she asked me. ‘Great, of course you can. This woman seems lost.’
She turned to the woman, who also looked relieved.
‘WHAT DO YOU WANT ?’ she shouted at her.
‘Wait on,’ I said. ‘Don’t you speak Chinese?’
She turned to me with a look that said ‘Why would you think that?’.
‘No,’ she said quite reasonably. ‘I just thought you needed help’
Now, I’ve been yelling in English at non-English speaking patients for years, even before this young puppy was born. I’ve become quite accomplished at it. I didn’t need her help, thank you.
As it turned out a simple call to bed allocations found two Liu in the hospital. One in maternity just nearby. A simple miming of a pregnant belly and the old woman was on her way, hopefully right direction, with her ‘interpreter’.
Another triumph for multiculturalism.