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March 3, 2004

Health Alert: Better health care for the deaf

From: WIS - Columbia,SC,USA - Mar 3, 2004

(Baltimore, Maryland) March 3, 2004 - Janelle Berry loves time with her son, Curran. He can hear, but Janelle is deaf. Her sister, Articia, who has some hearing loss, often helps the two communicate.

When Janelle had Curran, an interpreter was with her in the deliver room. But, for other visits the deaf person often has to wait for an interpreter, "When I call to make an appointment, I always say, 'I need an interpreter.' They say, 'OK.' Sometimes they don't show."

Now, a system called "Deaf-Talk" may decrease the waiting time from a few hours to a few minutes. Using a camera in interpreter can see the patient signing, and the patient can see the interpreter on the screen. The device is placed on a rolling cart and moved to any room with a high-speed phone line.

Cathy O'Neill, RN, the director of emergency nursing at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says, "It's a little more private than using a live interpreter, because you turn it on when you need it and off when you don't need it, versus a live interpreter who has to stay in the room with the patient."

Interpreter Kathy Beetham agrees Deaf-Talk is a big advance, "Patients think it's cool, and it's quick, and someone's there, and so it's not an issue of waiting for someone to come and having someone sit there with them."

Both Articia and Janelle say they'll rest easier knowing Deaf-Talk is there if they need it.

About 150 hospitals re using Deaf-Talk. Hospitals say another benefit is cost. The cost of the equipment and the use of an interpreter is less than paying an interpreter to be on site during the entire visit.

by Dawn Mercer

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