Like most dads-to-be, Anthony Hinton wanted to be fully involved with the birth of his first child. Anthony is deaf, and so he and his wife Kate asked Westmead Private Hospital to provide an Auslan interpreter for them during labour and delivery.
But Kate says Westmead Private refused to do it, because her husband wasn’t the patient.
“I explained how important it was for him to have an interpreter because if anything were to go wrong he would need to make decisions on my behalf and if he doesn’t know what is happening he can’t really do that,” she says.
According to the Hintons, Westmead Private suggested that Kate should use sign language between contractions to let her husband know what was going on. So the couple turned to the public Westmead Hospital.
"I turned up prepared to fight my case but they just said, 'Yes, no worries, we'll organise that for you,'" Kate remembers. "I almost burst into tears."
So the couple switched hospitals, three-quarters of the way through the pregnancy.
As it turned out, the interpreter was important. When baby Abigail was born on May 24 this year, there were complications. Abigail had to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the interpreter kept Anthony informed all the way.
"I am Abigail's parent also so I need to know what is happening to her just as much as my wife needs to know," Anthony says.
Westmead Private has apologised to the Hintons. But a spokesperson says they were unable to have an interpreter on call.
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"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," the spokesperson says.
Kate, who is not deaf, works as an Auslan interpreter. She's hoping the case will draw attention to discrimination against the deaf community.
Anthony was in the news last year when he feared he would have to give up his plumbing studies at TAFE, due to cutbacks to interpreters and note-takers.
"Since marrying my husband I have seen how much deaf people always have to advocate to access things most people take for granted," Kate says. "The birth of a child is such an important part of your life. You shouldn't have to fight for that."
The Hintons are now planning legal action against Westmead Private, claiming unlawful discrimination.
Do you think the private hospital should have provided an interpreter for the Hintons?