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Deaf people to receive better care as doctors learn to sign
12/1/2006 7:55

Cai Wenjun/Shanghai Daily news

The Xinhua Neighborhood Health Center in Changning District became the nation's first hospital providing doctors with basic sign language skills to serve patients with a hearing disability.
Fifteen doctors passed an examination from teachers at a deaf school yesterday. The doctors specialize in different types of medicine at the hospital.
Officials from Changning District Health Bureau said the bureau will promote the course to more hospitals in the region if the pilot program runs smoothly at Xinhua. They will also introduce the course to city-based health authorities.
There are about 175,000 deaf people in the city. Not one hospital has sign language translators on staff. Thus it's very inconvenient for deaf people to receive treatment. They are forced to communicate with doctors and nurses through gestures, writing or a family member who can sign.
"Gestures can be misleading and writing takes a long time," said Dr Liu Shuo, the initiator of the program. "Doctors may just give therapy on the symptoms and not find the cause of the problem. To prevent misdiagnosis, doctors always have deaf patients take more tests, which is a financial burden to many people."
Liu, who previously taught medicine at a school for the deaf, introduced the course for doctors at his health center with cooperation from professional teachers and experts.
They created a textbook for medical staff, matching signs with medical expressions.
Hospital officials said doctors' understanding of sign language can not only streamline medical services, but also be helpful when promoting medical information at the community level.
There is a serious shortage of people who understand sign language in both the city and the country.
There are six deaf people's schools in Shanghai with 1,000 professionals who can sign. There are no amateur sign language translators in the city.
"About 5 percent of people who can hear know how to sign in the West," said Liu. "It's less than 0.1 percent in China. There is a huge demand for such people, especially during big events like the Special Olympics."
The municipal government is taking steps to improve the situation. The Shanghai Labor and Social Security Bureau is expected to provide licenses and examinations for sign language translators this year.