Press Release – Deaf Action NZ
for immediate release
DHBs lack consistency for safety of Deaf patients
15 March, 2017
Deaf Action urges DHBs to make a commitment to the safety of Deaf people across New Zealand by ensuring access to NZSL interpreters at all times.
After Whangerei resident Kim Robinson waited for 64 hours for an NZSL interpreter during a medical emergency, Deaf Action New Zealand led an investigation into the interpreter provisions at hospitals around the country.
A forum was held in May 2016 in response to cases of Deaf patients in various DHBs having issues getting a NZSL Interpreter during emergencies. Deaf community members shared their experiences with interpreter services in health settings. Many Deaf people recounted experiences of waiting several hours for an interpreter, resorting to using children or other untrained family members as facilitators, or relying on lipreading or written communication.
Deaf Action contacted every District Health Board in New Zealand to ask for assurance that each DHB could provide access to NZSL Interpreters at all times. Responses were received from 18/20 DHBs. Of those who replied, eight were able to provide assurance that they could provide interpreters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These DHBs include Waitemata, Counties Manukau, Waikato, Wairapapa, Hutt Valley, Capital Coast, Canterbury and West Coast.
Three DHBs asked for guidance or are open to a discussion on how to improve access and services to the Deaf. As result of Deaf Action’s letter, Auckland and Northland DHBs undertook an immediate review and implemented improvements. Lakes DHB also reviewed their policies and asked for advice to strengthen their ability to provide a safe 24 hours 7 days a week service. Not one DHB referred to the Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) service, which has been available since 2009. However, one DHB referred to the use of Skype as a useful tool at times when it is not possible to have an interpreter present on site.
Deaf Action recommends that all DHBs make a commitment towards providing effective, accessible services to the Deaf community at all times by reviewing their policies and procedures.
The organisation acknowledges that Northland DHB has taken positive steps to ensure Kim Robinson’s experience does not occur again.