By Lami Sadiq, Jos
Thirty-four-year-old Pantong Dashwet lived in the United States of America for seven years where as a deaf young man, he communicated much easily with care givers especially doctors and nurses in hospitals. “There are interpreters in their hospitals, they also have Video Relay Services (VRS) which makes communication very easy,” he told Benue/Plateau Trust through an interpreter in Jos.
But like many who are deaf, Pantong says things are difficult in Nigeria and the lack of interpreters and technology like the VRS to assist those with the disability often discourages them from seeking medical help. Pantong says he finds it stressful to communicate with doctors and nurses in the hospital as both have to resort to writing back and forth which is not only tasking but time consuming.
Plangnan Dennis, who is 31, is also deaf but post lingual because she lost hearing at the age of eight due to an illness. She often goes to the hospital with her mother or brother because they understand basic sign language and often times serve as interpreters between herself and the doctors. But on days she visits the hospital alone, she also has to make do with writing. Both Plangnan and Pantong told Benue/Plateau Trust that their experiences with doctors and nurses in hospitals have been pleasant as the care givers are usually patient with them, and take their time to clarify their written statements. With an estimated 17 million deaf people in the country, getting interpreters in Nigerian hospitals should be seen as a priority especially in emergency situations where the patients may be illiterate and or incapacitated to write. Wuni Bitrus, a disability advocate and the co-founder of Deaf Technology Foundation where deaf children are trained on Computer Programming and Robotic, says the deaf community is a low income community that has been neglected in virtually everything especially education and the health sector. Bitrus, who often renders voluntary interpretation services at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), said “for them to even afford going to the hospital is a challenge not to talk of the medium of communication, which is another hindrance. They usually have resistance going to heath care facilities especially since most of them are not literate. Some get lost in communication using pen and paper because they are not literate and there is a likelihood that the doctors could use his discretion to diagnose them.” Pantong advises that hospitals should employ capable interpreters and explained that; “It would be nice if doctors too can learn sign language to make communication easier, especially basic language regarding their medical field such as sings for symptoms of various illness or diagnosis.” Plangnan also believes that the stress of writing back and forth on both doctors and patients could be avoided if basic sign language was introduced in medical schools so that doctors and nurses can learn early enough to communicate with deaf patients. “Again, a deaf individual should be allowed to study Medicine, Pharmacy and other related courses such as Nursing so that they can best attend and treat their own without any communication barrier,” she also said through an interpreter. Speaking with Benue/Plateau Trust, Consultant Family Physician with the Vom Christian hospital, Dr. Gyang Mark said dealing with the deaf was like communication with someone in a foreign language. Dr. Mark explained that most of such patients with hearing and speech impairments often visit hospitals with families who help with the interpretation but agrees that medical personnel could get some basic training in sign language. He said, “while it is advisable to get those who understand sign languages in the hospital, the better alternative would be to get some medical personnel trained on sign language.”
culled from Daily Trust