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Front-line health staff to learn sign language

Published:Saturday | July 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

CHRISTINE HENDRICKS, executive director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, has described as a great move, the decision of the Government to train front-line staff within the public health sector to interact with persons with disabilities.

Luther Buchanan, the minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister, who has been seconded to the health ministry, announced in the Sectoral Debate on Wednesday that starting September, 100 persons will be trained in sign language to provide assistance to hearing-impaired clients in the public health system.

"Equal access to quality health services will be the foundation upon which we build the first-class health service that Jamaica is poised to provide," Buchanan said.

Lack of understanding

In an interview with The Gleaner, Hendricks said members of the community will benefit from the action being taken.

"Oftentimes when persons with disabilities, such as persons who are deaf, go for health care they are not served because sometimes the lack of understanding of how to communicate with them," Hendricks told The Gleaner.

She noted that not all deaf persons know sign language, but said the use of other forms of communication such as writing and lip reading would also greatly assist members of the deaf community.

Meanwhile, Buchanan announced that the Government would continue to train additional health workers in customer service, specific to the disabled community.

Government committed

Buchanan told Parliament that the Government is committed to providing equal access to health services to all vulnerable groups including the 400,000 members of the disabled community. He said some $9 million was spent through the National Health Fund, in partnership with the UWI Centre for Disability Studies (CDS), last year on the training of health workers in customer service specific to persons with disabilities, research as well as public education and sensitisation.

"Over 200 health workers have already been trained and the UWI-CDS is undertaking pioneering research in the areas of diabetes, hypertension and disabilities in Jamaica," Buchanan said.

He told Parliament that this financial year, UWI-CDS will focus its research in the southern section of the island, which he said has the highest prevalence of disabled persons.

"Through this research which seeks to establish the causes of this phenomenon, the Government will be better able to put in place evidence-based interventions," the minister said.