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English less and less visible at St. Mary’s Hospital, patients say

The patient-rights committee of St. Mary’s Hospital is accusing the administration established under Health Minister Gaétan Barrette of making changes to signs, letterhead and other communications that appear to favour French to the detriment of English.

The issue is a highly contentious one among members of the users’ committee, who note that St. Mary’s was founded by Montreal’s Irish Catholic community and is considered an officially bilingual hospital that continues to serve thousands of English-speaking patients each year.

Despite its bilingual status, St. Mary’s no longer uses bilingual letterhead on its official communications, the Montreal Gazette has learned. What’s more, some patients who have written to the hospital administration in English about various matters have complained that they receive responses in French only, a longtime users’ committee member said.

Geoffrey Chambers, president of the English-rights Quebec Community Groups Network, declined to comment on the concerns of St. Mary’s users’ committee, saying he needed more information.

However, Chambers noted that under Barrette’s reform, known as Bill 10, “an interested group of people involved” with an “amalgamated institution such as any of St. Mary’s, the Douglas (and) the Lakeshore may ask the minister to constitute an advisory committee.”

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