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Health Minister: Hospitals' working language must be Latvian

The issue of language, namely not speaking Russian, often becomes the cause of harassment targeted toward young doctors – not only with patients but senior colleagues. The Latvian Junior Doctors Association spoke about this at a meeting with the Health Minister on Monday, who pointed out it is high time to change this, Latvian Television reported February 19.

Young doctors recently raised the issue of an unofficial requirement for knowledge of Russian, which many young doctors don't speak that well. Russian is needed both in communication with patients and even between doctors. Cases were discussed, when, for example, Russian is used during surgery, and the younger doctors do not understand what to do, which leads to mobbing and bossing on the part of seniors.

Health Minister Hosams Abu Meri (New Unity) has also started receiving many complaints. He therefore invited the heads of all Latvian hospitals to a meeting on Monday, February 19.

Only one – Artūrs Bērziņš, head of the addiction treatment center Ģintermuiža, had arrived in person. Everyone else connected remotely. And while at Ģintermuiža, whose profile is psychiatric help, at present the language issue does not pose significant barriers to day-to-day work, the hospital chief acknowledged the problem and that it needs to be addressed.

“Honestly, I am sorry that it is only today that we start talking about it. What we expect from the Health Minister and hospital boards is to be heard. This opportunity to report such situations where we can be heard further and to seek some specific solutions,” said Anna Klēšmite Blūma, Board Member of the Junior Doctors Association, said.

The minister is calling for solutions to be sought by the hospital managers themselves.

He, too, has received complaints that in separate departments of some hospitals, medics discuss work issues about patients in Russian. Because young colleagues are unfamiliar with Russian, it poses a danger that the patient may be treated incorrectly. There are several aspects to the language issue. The health minister is therefore appealing to hospital managers to be aware of the seriousness of the situation.

"Working language. Language of educational processes. Documents.[..] Consilia, meetings, negotiations, public invitations, this is clear – must be in Latvian, it is in the official language. We have one national language, one official language and we must not step back," the minister stressed.

After addressing hospital managers, the next step will be a survey of young doctors. After the survey, it is planned to analyze the data and call again on the heads of the authorities most complained about.

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