Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3836 ..
Minister Rattenbury said that the directorate had considered the contract of Dr Rodrigues when her contract ceased in 2017. He said the directorate had considered “how her services interacted with wider mental health clinical services”. According to the minister’s letter, since her departure, Canberra Health Services and the ACT Health Directorate have determined that “there isn’t a need to have the services provided by her replaced”. Further, Mr Rattenbury said:
ACTHS and CHS—
ACT health services and Canberra Health Services—
have advised me they have not experienced any gaps in services where deaf and deaf/blind people are presenting with a mental health concern.
Again, I disagree. Why do I disagree? Because I have spoken to some of those people.
The minister’s response is at odds with what I have been told by members of Canberra’s deaf community. For example, I have received the following from a member of the deaf community:
For over 12 months now the Deaf community have not had access to face to face one on one mental health services and the implications are now becoming very clear.
We have had a recent instance where a Deaf person attended ER at Canberra Hospital in distress but was sent home without an interpreter being provided by the hospital. The person was suicidal and required admittance to hospital, but this did not occur. The general mental health of our Deaf Community is at the moment at an all-time low and I request urgent attention to reinstating the services of Dr Otilia Rodrigues.
Not only do mental health services need to be reinstated but it would be ideal if a service could be developed in consultation with the deaf community here.
The minister has either misunderstood or miscalculated the needs of the deaf community here in Canberra. For example, there is only one interpreter in Canberra qualified to work with deafblind people. That interpreter is also the only one qualified to work in mental health. It follows quite logically that if that interpreter is not available, the person needing assistance will go without that much-needed assistance.
However, even saying that using interpreting is the answer for everything is indicative of a lack of understanding. Mr Rattenbury seems to be a bit detached from the experience on the ground of deaf people. When he talks about funding provided to the Deaf Society for emergency interpreting services, which I believe is the only specialised funding provided by the ACT government for Auslan-using deaf people, my understanding is that the service is only available Monday to Friday. Who is going to be able to help you if you have a mental health crisis on a weekend?
We have experienced firsthand the challenges of finding interpreters in Canberra, with only one available today where usually two interpreters would have been booked for a