DEAF Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) says the just ended training whereby 35 nurses from Harare City council clinics received sign language training, was the beginning of a nationwide project which would bridge the communication gap between deaf people and health care workers.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an Interview with HealthTimes, Deaf Zimbabwe Executive Director Barbra Nyangairi said deaf people were having numerous challenges in accessing basic health care services, hence the need for capacity building and training of health care personal.
“The training was motivated by the need to increase access to communication between Deaf people and health care workers when they visit health centres.
“The Deaf people were having a number of challenges when they visited health centres such as not being understood when they went to health centres, their histories where not taken because the nurses did not know how to communicate, at times they were not served when they visited health centres,” said Nyangairi.
She said the just ended training for nurses was appreciated by the nurses and the training would also do away with certain stigma and discrimination of people living with hearing impairments.
“It is definitely the beginning of a bigger project because persons who are Deaf are all over Zimbabwe and they face the same challenges when they visit health centres. They struggle with access to information and face communication barriers with health service workers all over. It is important for all health workers to have basic knowledge.
“Deaf people have reported a number of challenges and discrimination when they visit health centres. In some cases they are asked why they have sex when they are Deaf. They are also not served timeously in some cases.”
Nyangairi also bemoaned the lack of privacy with regards to issues of HIV status and or other diseases.
“When tested for HIV they reported that everyone in the health centre would know their results as nurses asked each other who can talk to them and thus confidentliaty and dignity were not present in these interactions.
“This training is part of an ongoing process as DZT started training health workers in sign language and disability management a few years ago and continues to do so. We need to move outside Harare as we have presently focused our work on health centres in Harare.”
According to statistics, Zimbabwe has over 300 000 people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. DZT is currently exploring means to catch the health workers at the beginning during training but we have not yet gone that far.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has no Deaf person practicing as a nurse or health professional, an i avenue that DZT says needs exploring as in countries such as the United States Deaf people have trained and work as nurses and doctors to mention a few.