A group of deaf people met with the Osaka City officials with the signature of about 2700 and demanded for the support by better interpreting at the Osaka Municipal General Hospital.
It was because Toshiko Nakawaki (51), a professional nurse, who has kept supporting the Deaf patients with interpreting for 33 years, has retired at the end of March, 2009. She was the only nurse who acted as an interpreter.
Nakawaki had learned sign language at the nurse training school, before she was hired at a hospital at the age of 20 and interpreted for Deaf patients consulting a physician at any time.
Though she quit taking the opportunity of the marriage, she later found employment in the General Hospital in 2001. She supported Deaf patients by interpreting at every scene such as the reception, examinations, operations and the delivery of the medicine. She also helped the Deaf patients about payment and gave information on the treatment department.
Because of the interpreting service at the hospital, the number of the Deaf consumers/patients increased rapidly to about 1400 in 2007 from about 580 in 2002. So, Nakawaki felt her work load too heavy to control, and requested the employer to increase the staff members and improve the work environment. Her request was declined and then she retired.
According to the investigation of the "Deaf Medical Network" consisted of medical professionals involved in Deaf medical issues, there are only about 20 hospitals where the interpreter is arranged; Osaka including the General Hospital, Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Fukuoka, etc. as of 2006. It would be several when it comes to the interpreter with the nursing license.
Taeko Iida (33), a Deaf woman, learned from others about Nakwaki's retirement and began the signature campaign with her friends on the Internet, etc. on March 9, 2009.
Iida said, "When my twin sister was giving birth in May, 2008, Nakawaki so accurately interpreted for her that alleviated anxiety".
A female nurse in the same hospital took as the successor on April 13, and her one-year experience with sign language seems too shallow to Iida. She appeals that the support from a veteran nurse would be indispensable.
Source in Japanese: