Latvian radio met doctor Mareks Marčuks, born in Rēzekne in eastern Latvia, where the proportion of Russian speakers is higher. He currently works both at Rēzekne Hospital as a pediatrician, as well as at Rīga Children’s Clinical University Hospital. Mareks said he had no problem communicating with patients, but he noticed that among young doctors, the knowledge of Russian is lower.
“Comparing older colleagues with us, young trainees, their knowledge of the language is not so good. There were several colleagues in our primary studies who really did not know the Russian language. When we had to go to hospital setting, in practical work with patients, they were targeting Latvian patients,” Mareks said.
He pointed out that there is only one official language in Latvia, Latvian, and therefore no doctor can be required to know the Russian language to work with patients. The doctor also recognized that the main purpose of a doctor is to understand the patient’s complaints and help him, therefore, undeniably, in the reality of this moment, the Russian language is still an advantage.
The question of language in the medical field is apparently not a subject that young doctors talk about freely. Some of the doctors spoken to by Latvian radio refused the conversation because they were worried about the possible consequences. One of the interviewees declined the conversation because she had received advice from management not to broach the subject.
The role of the language barrier was acknowledged by Liene Cipule, Chief of the Emergency Medical Service (NMPD). She said knowledge of the Russian language was not a requirement for working at the NMPD. She said there were regional differences, so, for example, brigades from Latgale are generally happy to be relocated to Riga since knowledge of Russian is usually not a problem.
“At the time of Covid-19, when we carried out the relocations of brigades from different regions to Rīga, colleagues traveling from Kurzeme, Vidzeme, did not want to be relocated due to the language [in Rīga] where in fact all other calls or even more are made in Russian. [..] The Latgale region is very happy to go to Riga to replace colleagues because they don’t have these problems with Russian communication,” Cipule said.
Mareks Marčuks said that in private conversations with colleagues, the linguistic aspect is sometimes mentioned, but it is not a determining factor in the choice of the city or the hospital where to work. appear. The man did not mention any cases where this played a crucial role in the decision to start working in one or another region and hospital.
“We team up in the hospital – colleagues who do not speak Russian ask freely, Come with me! I need you to translate something, or come to the office and whisper What does this sentence mean? It is important for me to communicate with my patient.“
Grigorijs Semjonovs, head of the largely Russian-speaking Daugavpils Regional Hospital, said there were no cases where someone explicitly refused to work because of the language. Russian is one of the daily working languages at Daugavpils Hospital, but so far every situation has been resolved. There were no problems for young colleagues who don’t know Russian so well.
“Yes, we have the specifics, we are here next to the border, but we are used to it. And we have a fairly multinational working environment. Sometimes it may be that if a person does not really understand Russian, but has to develop a story, communicate with the patient, a nurse comes and helps, translates,” Semjonovs said.
NMPD chief Liene Cipule said that in the future it may happen that the service cannot always communicate in Russian.
“Indeed, the knowledge of Russian among young people differs significantly from that of older colleagues. Considering the fact that every year we have colleagues retiring, we really have to start counting and preparing that at some point our doctors working in the brigades and those working in the operational management center will not will not always be able to ensure Russian communication. “, Cipulus said.
Artūrs Šilovs, head of the Latvian Association of Young Doctors, said that if the young doctor does not speak Russian, but the patient does not speak English, the situation is resolved by bringing another colleague to the service. However, Šilovs also called on the public to understand the reality of the situation: elderly people often go to doctors and often speak Russian.
“We have to understand the reality that we have enough people in the health sector who don’t speak Latvian – in this case, speak Russian. And this must be taken into account. But in all these cases, colleagues are usually very supportive. They are ready to help. There is always a way out and a solution,” Šilovs said.
The Association of Young Doctors conducts annual surveys identifying 10 main problems in the internship process, which young doctors believe should be solved. Šilovs said the language issue has not yet appeared on this table.
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