The case of a deaf man who was unable to get a qualified sign language interpreter when he was rushed to the Saint John Regional Hospital with a suspected heart attack has highlighted the shortage of resources for the deaf and hard of hearing in New Brunswick, according to an advocate.
A 14-year-old girl ended up serving as interpreter for Mark Toner, 61, after his wife, in desperation, turned to social media for help. "I really panicked because I couldn't get there in a timely manner and he was taken by ambulance," said Susan Toner. The hospital does not have its own interpreter, said executive director Brenda Kinney. None of hospitals within the Horizon Health Network do, she said.
'In emergency situations Horizon would make every effort to find an interpreter.' Kinney declined to discuss a specific patient's case, citing privacy reasons. But when a deaf patient arrives at the Saint John Regional Hospital unaccompanied by an interpreter, staff call the Saint John Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Inc. for an interpreter, she stated in an email to CBC News.
"If no interpreter is available through the service and the situation is not urgent, we may reach out to the family or engage in a dialogue with the patient by writing," said Kinney. "In emergency situations Horizon would make every effort to find an interpreter," she added without elaborating.
Toner was complaining of severe back pain on Friday, but staff at the special care home where he resides feared he might be having a heart attack and sent him to the hospital by ambulance, his wife said.
Lynn LeBlanc, executive director for the Saint John Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Inc., said there are only two qualified interpreters in the city. Both of them were already assigned elsewhere that day, she said.
There are only four qualified interpreters for the entire province, with the other two based in Fredericton and Moncton. Together, they serve a population of 750 people.