By Daniel Phiri
GOVERNMENT says it has been teaching some nurses sign language; though on a small scale with a view to ensure the deaf and dumb are better able to access health services.
People living with various disabilities especially those with hearing impairment have difficulties communicating with health workers at various institutions across the country. This has resulted in most of them failing to access health services even though they may be available to them.
Giving oral evidence to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry Dr Gerald Gwinji said people with disabilities are a critical area and his ministry has been trying to train a few nurses to cater for patients with special needs.
“People living with disabilities is a critical area, what we have done through our department of rehabilitation is that we have started training a few nurses at Parirenyatwa and other central hospitals sign language.
“It’s a stretched level of staffing and we have not managed to train enough for the institutions but we recognise the challenge in the area. What we have done also is to put it across to civil society so that they can place people there to help while we try to work on it.
“But, yes we have started small but it is happening,” he said.
Dr Gwinji added that people with special needs used to fall under the department of social welfare and had not been included in the original nurse training manual.
[pullquote]The permanent secretary was responding to questions from Southern African Aids Trust (SAT) country director Giva Dete who had wanted to know what government was doing to ensure disabled patients are catered for in health facilities.[/pullquote]
Dete indicated that both nurses and people with disabilities were having difficulties times trying to communicate in health facilities, especially when they go into labour.
The SAT boss said government needed to address the issue urgently as disabled people are not being assisted adequately in health facilities as health workers lack the relevant skills especially when it comes to communication.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health says it requires about US$1.3 billion from the 2018 national budget which will be presented by Minister Ignatius Chombo in a few weeks.
The ministry says this budget will go a long way in helping to effectively scale up malaria, HIV, nutrition and Non-Communicable Diseases interventions with the emphasis on lower levels of care.
The funding will also enable the ministry to improve infrastructures, invest to improve availability and security of medicines and supplies and to capacitation of skilled human resources.