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Kate Hinton had planned to deliver her baby at Sydney’s Westmead Private Hospital until staff refused an Auslan interpreter for her deaf husband, Anthony.

The couple were  told the hospital does not even provide these services for women giving birth, as they do not know ‘how long the labour will be’.

‘I explained to [the clerk] the importance of having an interpreter for Anthony as if something were to go wrong with his wife and daughter he would need to know,’ Ms Hinton told Daily Mail Australia.

‘He was concerned if something were to go on he wouldn’t know what was happening and it would just be a flurry of medical staff.’

They even suggested that Kate, an Auslan interpreter herself,  interpret herself between contractions.

The upset and confused couple withdrew their admission from the private sector and decided to go through the public system.

‘I was about 30-something weeks into my pregnancy and we had to make decision,’ Ms Hinton said.

‘We knew the public sector had policies that patients and their families had the right to an interpreter and that we would be protected by their policy.’

On asking whether they could be provided with this service, they said it was no problem.

‘I was flabbergasted, I almost cried,’ Ms Hinton said. ‘I was so relieved it wasn’t going to be an issue with them.’

During the birth of baby Abigail, the interpreter stayed for more than seven hours ‘until [they] didn’t need her.’

Ms Hinton said she was awake for more than 24 hours, there ‘was no way’ she could have physically sat up to tell Mr Hinton what was happening.

Baby Abigail needed special care after he birth and was worked on by a team of doctors before being admitted to the neonatal care unit.

‘We didn’t want Abigail to be on her own so Anthony was able to go to the care unit with the interpreter and ask any questions,’ Ms Hinton said.

‘If we didn’t have the interpreter it would have been really difficult for Anthony to lip read as most of the doctors had accents or surgical masks on.’

The pair have since launched a complaint with the human rights commission.

‘Anthony was concerned that if Abigail was in an accident he would want to be able to use our private health – that was the main impetus of us launching legal action,’ Ms Hinton said.

Edward Santow, chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said access to health care is a “core human right”.

“We believe the Hintons were not treated fairly or lawfully in this matter,” he said.

“People should not have to make these sorts of compromises.”

A spokeswoman for Westmead Private Hospital apologised to the Hintons but said it was unable to have an interpreter on call.

“The hospital was not able to commit to providing an interpreter service for Mr Hinton during Ms Hinton’s in-patient consultations with the medical practitioner nor during delivery, due to the unpredictable times these events occur and being unable to ensure an interpreter 24/7,” she said.

Kate also said “Since marrying my husband I have seen how much deaf people always have to advocate to access things most people take for granted,” she said.

“It always seems like a fight. The birth of a child is such an important part of your life. You shouldn’t have to fight for that.”

Share your thoughts below.

  • yeah, I see both sides – don’t want to say too much more here

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  • A great result in the end but a situation that could have been avoided entirely. Congratulations to the family on the birth of baby Abigail.

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  • How shocking. I can’t believe that any hospital let alone a privet one who charges unbelievable fees denied these soon to be parents the peace of mind of both of them knowing what’s happening through the birth of their child. Absolute rubbish! Glad that It worked out in the end.

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  • Way to go Team Hinton!!
    Congratulations on the birth of Abigail!!
    Good luck with your fight!!

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  • Let';s hope they get a win and set a precedence.

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  • Wow. A great and common sense result in the end, but what stress was placed on this family late in the pregnancy. I no longer have Private Health Insurance as I feel it never suited my needs when I really needed it. A shame this family who has private health insurance had to look at other options so late in the peace. Good to hear all is well now though.

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  • People pay a fortune for health cover and should be covered for what they require. It is a basic human right to be able to communicate. Ridiculous to expect a birthing mother to do Auslan!


    • Agreed. Wouldn’t be surprised if Private Health Insurers try to add an extra premium for all interpreter services – they try anything to get an extra dollar.

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  • Who would have thought something as prominent as deafness is still so difficult to get past for sone people today. It’s nearly an every day affliction today, why are deaf people still so discriminated against?!


    • It is absolutely ridiculous in this era for this to be a problem. A birth should be a happy event!

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  • yep i can see both sides but they are paying for cover, that should be covered then!

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  • It is just ridiculous that someone from a birthing suite actually suggested she do it herself whilst in labour.

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  • They are enough things going on then, then for the birthing parents to have to worry about one of then not being able to understand what is going on.

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  • I can see where the hospital is coming from, however if they are under private care and notified the staff they need an interpreter (surely they have had this before) and the public sector can provide rhis, why couldnt they get in touch and see if they have someone available? Or if they could provide details so they could fins someone who was available?

    Im glad they found someone who could help them.

    Good luck raising the little bundle of joy!!!

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  • Sad really.

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  • I hope they win and it makes a pathway for other families.

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  • GOSH this is a rather hard one..I can see part of the hospitals problem but also feel for the couple also.

    Reply

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