Good Health

Few years back I had a friend who self admitted for mental health issues. She attended the emergency department of a hospital and requested an Auslan interpreter to speak with the Dr and mental health people. The hospital staff had no idea what to do. My friend was at her wits end.

She began to text my wife and I. Rapid fire texts every two minutes or so. She expressed her frustrations to us. She just wanted treatment so that she could get better. The hospital staff had an emergency number for booking interpreters and tried their best to contact that number to no avail. I have many contacts in the interpreting fraternity. I contacted one interpreter I knew who had experience in mental health. She said she could be available in an hour or so. I used my contacts with an interpreter booking agency and booked my interpreter friend. I sent a text to my friend to show the nurse. The text explained to the nurse how to call to confirm booking for the interpreter. Although this was against hospital protocol they booked anyway. At least in the short term this meant that my friend got interpreting and peace of mind. Kudos to the nurse because she continued to communicate with me via text to get advice as to how she could communicate with my friend in the interim. This was just the beginning of a long drawn out saga. At one stage my wife spent four hours translating a mental health questionnaire into Auslan for my friend. Interpreter bookings promised did not happen.  It was not for want of trying. It was just that the hospital processes were so unclear no one knew what to do. Suffice to say my wife and I traveled some 160 kms a day to the hospital for seven days to ensure my friend got the support that she needed. We worked with the doctors to ensure that they understood the communication issues and to ensure our friend was disadvantaged as little as possible. Of course somewhere in Australia what happened to my friend will be happening to some other Deaf person. It might not be for mental health reasons. It might be because they have had an accident. It might be because they have had a heart attack. It might be because they or some loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Whatever it is I guarantee you most of the time that whether they are the patient or the carer that the Deaf person will be stressed. They will request interpreters and mostly be denied. They will request interpreters and doctors or nurses will insist that they try and lipread or will write brief and entirely unsatisfactory notes. At worst they are completely ignored while medical professionals just converse around them. Scared and worried about what is happening they will be denied access to essential information. Children, young children, will be asked to convey complex medical information that they are not equipped to convey. It is hell and this will be happening multiple times in Australia today. It is unfair and scary and Deaf people deserve better. The system is broken on so many levels. Emergency booking processes are inadequate. Hospital staff lack awareness. Supply of qualified interpreters for complex medical scenarios cannot meet demand. Yet it seems to me that just one person in Australia is making a noise about it and copping abuse for her trouble. So much that she fears speaking out now for the abuse she has received. The system needs fixing and we need to talk about it. Because if we don’t, to misquote Einstein,

We who remain silent are guilty of complicity …..

2 thoughts on “Good Health

  1. i work in a hospital and on their website it has the avenues to access an interpreter of anykind plus after hour numbers so i dont understand the lack of knowledge or laziness of the staff to not follow procols etc.
    Im so sorry this is happening as all staff have a duty of care to access interpreters to help the patient in anyway possible for the best health outcome for that patient .If you think your care is not provided in a way you think fit then you can call a Ryans Rule to get the appropriate avenues you need .

  2. Could the lady he talks about at the community advocay at bottom of the story “now silent” be me???? YES Deafnatley!!!!!! Aftee PB video on ADE taking my voice without my permission

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