One of the problems hospitals face in the battle against COVID-19 is the difficulty in communicating with patients especially those who are intubated.
To help address this difficulty, the speech-language pathology volunteers of Operation Smile Philippines (OSP), in partnership with the Speech-language pathologist of Cebu (SOC) and Siwala Pampangueña, followed the lead of the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists-Alternative Augmentative Communication Special Interest Group (PASP AAC-SIG) and came up with a speech communication board for the medical staff and the COVID-19 patients.
This way, the medical front liners can exchange messages with the patient and properly assist them on their needs.
Operation Smile, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive care to children and young adults with cleft lip and cleft palate deformities, shifted its efforts towards frontliners and COVID-19 patients as the world deals with the pandemic.
Communication Boards or “comm boards” are picture-laden boards featuring functional words used by individuals who have difficulty speaking because of physical limitations.
The boards have words such as “pain,” “yes/no,” “hungry,” “thirsty,” and others that can convey the needs of the patient directly.
The speech pathology volunteers from Cebu, Davao, Pampanga, and Manila have distributed over 300 kits of communication boards to several hospitals.
They include Chinese General Hospital and Sta. Ana Hospital in Metro Manila; Cebu Doctors University Hospital, Cebu North General Hospital, Cebu South General Hospital, Mactan Doctors Hospital, Cebu Velez General Hospital, Chong Hua Hospital-Fuente, Chong Hua Hospital-Mandaue, Perpetual Succor Hospital, University of Cebu Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and ARC Hospital in Cebu; Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao Regional Medical Center, Integrated Provincial Hospital Office in Maguindanao, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center and the Metro Dave Medical and Research Center in Mindanao; and also at Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo.
“The ‘comm boards’ have been translated into several languages and dialects such as Kapampangan, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Filipino, and Chinese. These are being used by patients who have been intubated and are hooked to a ventilator which made it difficult for them to talk,” Bal Ligot, one of the lead volunteers of OSP and the current chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the PASP said.
“These boards became their mouthpieces to communicate their needs to the doctors, nurses, and caregivers,” Ligot added.
In addition to the “comm board” efforts, OSP’s speech pathology volunteers also launched “Teletherapy” to provide essential speech therapy services to children and adults with communication difficulties such as cleft lip and palate, aphasia, and language disorders.
The volunteers are using various internet and media platforms and apps to engage patients in speech activities just like how they would do it during face-to-face sessions.
With the help of technology and internet connectivity in the age of social distancing, “Teletherapy” is gaining ground as an alternative mode of intervention for many children and adults with speech difficulties.
“Because of restrictions on mobility, social distancing and avoidance of face-to-face contact this quarantine period, speech pathologists have to turn these obstacles into opportunities and discover innovative ways to provide quality speech pathology care to the Filipino people.,” Ligot explained.
Via Mabag, one of the OSP speech pathology volunteers, shared her reasons for taking part in this program.
“I did teletherapy for three reasons: to ensure that my clients would have continuous progress, to increase parent involvement in therapy and to help sustain my need for doing a meaningful activity during the weeks of quarantine,” she said.
The program benefited the patients and the volunteers deemed it as a priceless reward.
“The daughter of my patient said that ever since the speech session continued via teletherapy, her mother started showing signs of improvement and her episodes of depression lessened,” Sheryl Sibug-Wong, an OSP volunteer, shared.
“The parents of my client were happy that their child can continue with speech therapy sessions through the internet especially since their son has started showing improvements in his communication skills,” OSP volunteer Almira Santos added.
Operation Smile’s Manila Cleft Care Center in Sta. Ana Hospital is currently implementing this center-based “Teletherapy” as part of their services for the patients during this quarantine period.