Bilingualism in Brussels Emergency Services: The Tragic Consequences and Calls for Change

2023-12-18 14:29:00

The grandparents try to understand, in vain: the caregivers present do not speak Dutch. From there, Karolien and Kim, Cisse’s parents who were present at a party, were informed that their baby was being transferred to the Queen Fabiola children’s hospital in Brussels. They therefore run to understand what happened to the toddler, but encounter the same problem as Cisse’s grandparents. Indeed, the treating doctor did not speak Dutch either. “You hold your child in your arms and no one can tell you what happened,” she tells VRT.

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To successfully communicate, Kim, the father, laboriously tried to switch from French to English in the hope of understanding the technical terms. But the translation is approximate and the parents end up concluding that Cisse choked on vomit. However, the reality is quite different. It was only 20 days later that the parents learned from Cisse’s pediatrician that the child had died suddenly.

A traumatic event for grandparents and parents alike, victims of the lack of bilingualism in Brussels emergency services. As reported by the VRT, the Permanent Linguistic Monitoring Committee has in fact received ten complaints over the last four years about the lack of bilingualism in this sector. For his part, the Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke intends to investigate the matter. “I will really hold this hospital responsible and seriously, because I think this is a very big mistake in the services provided by this hospital,” he says, preparing to submit the case to the National Commission for patients’ rights. “I’m going to ask the following question: how can we adapt our regulations so that people can actually file complaints?”

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