With more newcomers, the London gets cash for interpreters

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So many newcomers are coming to the London area, a boost was needed to help the area public health unit cover the cost of language interpreters to deal with immigrant parents of newborns having their hearing tested.

A nearly $250,000 provincial funding increase for the regional program — its first in more than a decade — is helping the Middlesex London Health Unit pay for translators.

“As we have more and more people coming to London whose first language isn’t English, we certainly want to be able to meet their needs,” said Debbie Shugar, program manager at the health unit. “If they need an interpreter, we want to be able to provide that.”

Translators are already called in for the program, but Shugar said the need is growing, especially for Arabic-speaking interpreters.

“It’s great with this money, because now we’re able to use a part of that to help fund more use of interpreters,” she said.

While most of the $245,000 increase from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services will go to added staff and new equipment, the extra money for interpreters is a bonus.

“It makes a difference in terms of how quickly the children can access the services,” said Shugar. “Our goal is to get all infants tested by . . . eight weeks old.”

The non-profit Across Languages Translation and Interpretation Services has provided the health unit with interpreters before — 65 per cent of its work is medical-related, said Anna Hendrikx, its executive director.

“A lot of the need comes from the hospitals, but it’s also family doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, the health unit,” she said.

Since the health unit runs the hearing program not just in London, but also in Elgin, Oxford, Huron, Perth, Grey, Bruce and Lambton counties, the new funding will have a far reach.

Last year, the voluntary program screened more than 98 per cent of the babies born in the region, 10,512 infants in total. About 120 children with permanent hearing loss received followup treatment.

“When a baby is born, they’re ready to learn and their brains are developing,” said Western University audiologist Marlene Bagatto. “If they don’t have good access to sounds, in particular speech sounds, then they won’t develop them themselves.”

The free test is administered in hospitals and community clinics. Infants can be referred to an audiologist for further testing. Hearing aids can be fitted by the time the baby is three or four months old.

“That way, there is no delay and there is no lack of access to speech and they can continue to develop speech and language just like a normal hearing baby would,” said Bagatto.



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