On Sunday, the Guardian reported how Hulusi Bati and his wife Nadia Hasan were asked to use their 12-year-old daughter to interpret during the labour and birth of their new baby and then how no interpreters were provided at crucial times following complications.
Limping Chicken Editor and journalist, Charlie Swinbourne’s comment piece in the Guardian was picked up by BBC London who followed-up the story on air. A full transcript can be found below. For those who want to listen, click here and the conversation begins 47 mins 30 seconds in.
How long before a deaf person dies in hospital for want of an interpreter? That’s the question being asked in the deaf community after a couple’s baby was born without them being able to understand what was going on because there was no signer available.
The baby was taken away to intensive care at University College Hospital leaving the couple confused and anxious about what was happening. Now Hulisi Bati, 32, and Nadia Hasan, 28, claim the lack of communication both during the birth and Hasan’s 10 day stay University College Hospital, post birth, amounted to discrimination because they were not given the information that a hearing patient would have received.
It’s interesting because we don’t think often what would happen if you had a disability or you had some kind of difficulty and this is a case that highlights that. Our reporter Anna O’Neill can tell us more.
So, Anna, what happened?
Well Mr Bati went to University College Hospital with his wife who was in labour and their 12 year old daughter and the hospital asked the daughter to interpret, because they hadn’t provided an interpreter even though Mr Bati says he already asked for one to be present during the labour.
When the 12-year-old said that she was feeling a little bit uncomfortable with the situation – staying in for the labour etcetera and having to interpret very important things – The hospital the called a British Sign Language interpreter.
Paul Redfern is from the British Deaf Association. He explains what happens next with the help of his own interpreter.
The birth started after the interpreter had left, so when the baby was born, the baby was moved to intensive care and they gave injections to the baby. Mr Bati didn’t understand why or what the injections were for and his complaint is about the way they said everything was going to be ok. They just gave a thumbs up and told him not to worry but Mr Bati was very concerned about why they were injecting the child.
Now I asked Paul Redfern why hospital staff couldn’t just have written down what they wanted to say.
Well Mr Bati’s English is not very good and he finds it difficult to read. Up to 80% of the British Deaf Association’s beneficiaries have problems with English. So it means writing things down isn’t a suitable alternative.
We’re laying it on now. So not only do we have people who have problems with hearing but problems with English anyway and have problems reading. That’s got to be an incredibly difficult thing for any hospital to deal with, Anna?
Well, maybe but let me break it down for you a little bit. When they say that 80% of members struggle with English, they don’t necessarily mean that 80% of those people are not what we would describe as English Language speaker would they be hearing. What they mean is, that British Sign Language is their first language and they may not have got up to the standard with their reading and writing to be considered to be at a level that a hearing person would describe as a normal level for reading and writing in English. We’ve got to make that point and it’s a really valid point.
British Sign Language is a language within itself?
So what could have prevented this situation then?
Well, from the point of view of the members of the British Deaf Association, who use sign language to communicate, Paul says there are some obvious measures that need to be taken.
(Firstly) An interpreter provided for booked appointments. Secondly we need to look at accident and emergency, there is more difficulty there because – how do you make sure you have an interpreter there for that, however, some places do have an answer for that, for example in Barnet they do have interpreters on a 24 hour call out. So that means that if someone goes to Accident and Emergency, they can look at the list and then call them in but also with technology as it now is, why not use Face Time for example?
Well let’s speak now to Journalist Charlie Swinbourne who grew up in a deaf family and signed from a young age, and whose piece in the Guardian alerted us to this subject.
Good evening to you, Charlie
Hi there, Eddie.
Is there real concern among the deaf community about this or is this a one-off?
Well, no. This is a pattern of events. We’ve had different stories that have been coming on the website I edit – LimpingChicken.com.
There was a woman in Dundee, a deaf woman, who was isolated and unable to communicate for 12 days when she had appendicitis. There was another man in Plymouth who had two foot operations and he only saw one interpreter though a number of different consolations and meetings. We’ve had numerous stories in the last year and it does seem like there is a pattern of this kind of event happening.
What’s the obligation of the hospital?
Well I think that deaf people, fundamentally, should be treated equally. Under the Equality Act ..
Eddie Nastor (interrupting)
We’d all agree with that. I’m just interested in what they are obliged to do.
Well, to treat someone who is a BSL user equally, they do need to ensure communication is provided in British Sign Language. It’s not acceptable to provide it in written form or expect those people to lip read or somehow hear what they’re saying.
In this situation that we’re talking about with this couple in University College Hospital, the staff were unable use British sign language, obviously, but they were also unable to communicate with them using deaf awareness skills by making sure that they were making eye contact, speaking clearly so they would have a chance of lip reading. There were other issues there as well– the staff should be deaf aware and they should be ensuring that communication is provided in sign language.
Just give us this website again please because this deaf aware thing is something I’d like to have a look at and I’m sure we’d love to speak to you again. What the website address of this blog that you edit?
The website is called LimpingChicken.com and the name comes from a situation where a deaf student was left without support and it became a great big story in the deaf community so we named it after that.
Appreciate your time very, very much Charlie Swinbourne, as I say, grew up in a family where he signed from a young age and this is inspired by a piece he wrote in the Guardian.
University College Hospital says that:
“They strive to provide the most comprehensive support available to patients who need British Sign Language interpreting services. We work with a service provider to provide face-to-face interpreters whenever they are required as well as additional facilities such as website and onsite British Sign Language video content.”
Obviously it didn’t work out quite that way in this case. More stories for you after the news headlines.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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