• Published December 16, 2010

    The Scarborough Hospital now has two full-time, certified interpreters—one who speaks Tamil and one who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese—to better serve our global community.

    “Since I joined the hospital, one of the main challenges I have heard consistently among staff is the difficulty in providing the best care experience to patients when language is a barrier to that care,” says Waheeda Rahman, Director of Diversity, Equity and Stakeholder Outreach.

    “By having two interpreters, the hospital is working towards removing linguistic barriers in serving the Scarborough population.”


    TSH serves a diverse community in which two-thirds of residents are a visible minority and more than half the population speak a first language other than English or French.

    “We want to ensure that all of our patients have access to care. We want them to feel comfortable communicating with their healthcare provider in their own language,” says Waheeda.

    The Tamil-speaking interpreter is based at the General and the Cantonese and Mandarin speaking interpreter is based at the Birchmount. They are available to assist with communication between hospital staff and patients and their families in the Emergency Department and throughout the hospital. The interpreters—whose services are confidential—are also available to provide interpretation for domestic violence cases.

    Janaki, the Tamil-speaking interpreter, worked in Dubai for ten years before moving to Canada about a year ago to provide more opportunities for her twin daughters. As a new immigrant, she understands the difficulties and challenges many of our patients face.

    “Many new immigrants, especially those who don’t speak English, are not aware of the resources available in the community and some are hesitant in asking because of the language barrier,” says Janaki. “It is my privilege as an interpreter to help our patients.”

    Originally from China, Kelly is the Mandarin and Cantonese speaking interpreter. She is enjoying the challenge of working in a busy Emergency Department.

    “It is nice to provide interpretation in the hospital. People appreciate it, especially when they are sick. They find it comforting,” says Kelly, who studied psychology and sociology at the University of Toronto and most recently worked as an interpreter for the courts. Kelly also has experience working with autistic children and troubled youth.

    “The need is here and I’m pleased to be able to help meet a need by providing interpretation,” she says.

    In addition to providing interpretation services for patients in the Emergency Department, Janaki and Kelly can be pre-booked for appointments in other units and can assist in interpretation elsewhere in the hospital when available.

    “Many patients are very happy to have somebody who can help out,” says Janaki, who has a degree in chemistry and experience as a medical underwriter and medical transcriptionist. “They are so grateful and that’s very rewarding.”

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