Many deaf people do not seek healthcare due to stigmatisation and the lack of communication between them and health workers.
According to the Executive Director of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD), Mr Juventus Duorinaah, health workers still require knowledge about the deaf community, their Sexual Reproductive health (SRH) needs, steps for providing deaf friendly support services and basic awareness about their general health needs.
He said education on SHR issues using the electronic media in the country remained inaccessible for the deaf people as such materials were always produced in forms which the deaf people did not understand.
“Information provided at antenatal and postnatal care and other community awareness on pregnancy related complications are not accessible for the deaf women,” he stated.
Mr Duorinaah was speaking at the opening of a three-day training workshop for 20 selected health workers from 12 hospitals in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Ashiaman Municipality in the Greater Accra Region on Monday, November 3, this year.
The training was aimed at increasing the knowledge of the participants on how to communicate effectively with the deaf people so as to provide them with quality services, particularly on SHR including safe clinical abortion.
Mr Duorinaah said almost all outpatient departments (OPDs) in the country’s hospitals did not have nurses with the required knowledge to communicate directly with the deaf.
“Stigma arising from health workers, lack of knowledge about the deaf community and poor targeting seriously hinder SHR seeking behaviour at health facilities,” he said.
He said the goal of the training was to ensure that “deaf adolescent girls and boys, as well as youth and adults of reproductive age who are deaf, have access to quality information and services on their SHR rights.”
“We seek to achieve a community where deaf women, girls and sexually active adolescents are able to access non-stigma SHR services in environment that maintains their privacy,” Mr Duorinaah said.
He said the project was being implemented in six districts, namely Sunyani Municipality, Tano South, Ashaiman Municipality, Tamale Metropolis, Savelugu Municipality and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
He, therefore, encouraged the participants to take the training seriously so as to help achieve the objective for which the programme was instituted, saying there were over 110,625 individuals who are deaf in the country.
Mr Duorinaah also commended the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) for supporting the implementation of the project in the beneficiary districts.
The Accra Metro Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Esi Therson-Cofie, expressed worry that many of deaf people feel reluctant to go to the hospital for healthcare services due to the fact that there was a communication gap between them and health workers.
She said health workers, particularly nurses needed the patience to be able to effectively communicate with the deaf people, noting that lack of communication always creates barriers for providing quality healthcare services for the deaf people.
She said although the training was not enough, it would help the participants to provide better services to the deaf community.
“We should go out and give our deaf brothers and sisters the best of service,” Dr Therson-Cofie said, urging the beneficiaries to extend the knowledge gained at the training to their colleagues in their various health facilities.
The Ashiaman Municipal Director of the GHS, Mrs Patience Ami Mamattah, in her remarks, said deaf people formed an important part of the country’s population and that their health needs could not be overlooked.
She said no matter how small the population of the deaf people in the country may look like, they needed quality healthcare services just like those without hearing problems.
“They (deaf people) don’t come to us because they think we don’t communicate well with them,” she said, adding that “it is sad that many of us are not able to communicate with them.”
Mrs Mamattah added “We need to find an effective way to communicate with the deaf people because they are part of our clients,” urging the nurses to respects the rights of the deaf people who come to them for health needs.