Combating Covid-19 through better communication

(Contributed Photos)
(Contributed Photos)

PATIENTS who tested positive for Covid-19 undergo tests and treatment in order for them to recover. In cases when they are temporarily unable to speak because of factors hindering them to do so, there are materials that come in handy for better communication between the patient and the medical team.

On March 28, non-stock, non-profit organization Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (Pasp), through its Augmentative and Alternative Communication Special Interest Group (AAC-SIG), released Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) tools called Communication Boards kits. These were made accessible through its website and Facebook page.

On March 29, a Cebuano version was created by the Speech-Language Pathologists of Cebu (SOC), which were uploaded on Pasp’s website.

“Being the only two members of the Pasp AAC-SIG here in Cebu, Bea Marize Abella, CSP-PASP and I contacted other Cebu-based SLPs to help translate the Covid-19 boards so these can be useful in the Cebuano context,” said Viannery Dy Mabag, CSP-PASP.

By early April, these kits were distributed to different hospitals in Manila by their colleagues, with cities like Davao and Iloilo following suit.

Mabag together with Michiko Francey Yap, CSP-Pasp; Germaine Danica Lim, CSP-Pasp; and April Clarice Espina, CSP-Pasp, worked on the production and distribution of the Covid-19 boards to different hospitals in Cebu, with the first distribution taking place last April 7 at UCMed.

“Most of the patients with Covid-19 typically do not have communication problems and are able to talk to their doctors and nurses when they’re hospitalized. However, when they start to get intubated, put on ventilators, or have respiratory distress, they will temporarily be unable to speak. These can cause difficulties in communicating their wants and needs and even responding to healthcare providers assisting them,” said Mabag.

“Pasp, our mother organization along with its AAC-SIG, saw this as an opportunity to help out. As the primary healthcare workers who champion for efficient communication, Pasp AAC-SIG aimed to use its knowledge on AAC to help out the patients in intensive care and the frontliners communicate more efficiently. SOC, on a more specific context, aimed to be essential pandemic supporters to our frontliners.”

The AAC tools comes in different systems: No-tech systems which utilize the body without external support like gestures, sign language or facial expressions; Low-tech systems in the form of simple battery-operated tools, pen and paper, picture cards and communication boards (which Covid-19 patients are provided with); and High-tech systems like tablets.

Presently, the Covid-19 Communication Boards come in different languages including Hiligaynon, Waray and Kapampangan. Each kit contains simple instructions that anyone can use. A kit contains 10 boards with icons and messages which patients can point to as a way to communicate their concerns. As of April 29, they distributed a total of 115 kits to 11 hospitals in Cebu with a few more hospitals or Covid-19 facilities on their list awaiting distribution.

Speech and language services are tools used to aid its patients in improving one’s communication skills through verbal and non-verbal ways. In line with combating the Covid-19 virus, they hope to lessen the patient’s feeling of isolation, establish a sense of togetherness and most importantly, provide easy-to-use materials to convey their concerns with less difficulty through their efforts.


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