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DOH introduces sign language in health care system

Deaf children being introduced to each other. Photo from Deaf e-news

MANILA, Philippines - Patients with hearing disabilities can now enjoy better services in government hospitals.

The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday launched the first Filipino Sign Language (FSL) module in an effort to provide more efficient medical services for patients with hearing impairment.

DOH-National Capital Region (NCR) director Eduardo Janairo said the FSL module will be used to facilitate proper communication and provide understanding of patients with hearing impairment.

“Health workers will be educated and trained on the proper gestures and body movements illustrated in the module for them to be able to communicate properly with people who use sign language,” Janairo explained.

Through the module, the health worker will learn basic sign language necessary to communicate with deaf patients such as the alphabet, numbers, greetings, time, days, months and common questions asked in the emergency room.

Janairo said the adoption of FSL in the health care system is expected to benefit not only patients with hearing disabilities, but also the health workers, who will gain knowledge, skills and awareness on the needs of people using FSL.

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Based on the 2000 Census on Person with Disabilities (PWD), there are a total of 120,000 people with hearing disabilities in the country. The 2004 Philippine Registry on Persons with Disability showed a total of 571 registered PWDs at the National Capital Region with speech and hearing impairment.

“It is very important for health workers to be educated with the basics of FSL to be able to convey their messages and instructions on the services they are rendering to their deaf patient and also to understand the patient when he/she discloses information about his/her illness and providing the appropriate treatment acceptable to the deaf patient,” Janairo explained.

With the system, the inaccuracy and errors in communication that can pose health risk and liability to health providers can be avoided, Janairo said.

He said the FSL module was developed with the cooperation and support of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital, CAP College for the Deaf, De La Salle University - College of Saint Benilde and the Department of Education - National Capital Region.

“With this manual as a guide, we can address the health inequities in our health care system and ensure PWDs the administration of accurate health care treatment. It is with optimism that this FSL module will pave the way for the adaptation of FSL as a second medium of communication for the use of our Filipino deaf community,” Janairo said.

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