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One of the many barriers that disabled people face is getting quality healthcare. Sure, the government provides healthcare for the disabled, but the quality of healthcare they receive is another issue all together. Many people who are disabled receive inadequate healthcare. They do not receive healthcare that is based on whatever ailment or disability they have. Each individual is unique and should receive healthcare that is geared towards his specific needs. They should not be lumped in a class together. The program that I design will implement healthcare based on the specific needs of the individuals. I would accomplish this goal through education and by forming a partnership between the disabled and healthcare providers that would provide the best quality of life possible. According to an article published in Medical Humanities journal (Dec. 2010), titled “Disabled people experience troubling differences and even disparities in healthcare”, people with disabilities are often discriminated against because of their disabilities. Healthcare providers need to be educated through varies resources, so that they can provide better healthcare to the disabled. Through disability studies, healthcare providers will get an idea of what exactly is needed to care for a person with a particular disability.
Another article published by Medscape General Medicine journal dabbed: “Perceptions of Primary Healthcare Services among People with Physical Disabilities”, the authors explored accessibility of quality healthcare in Canada. The sample for the survey was 201 disabled individuals, who were asked to give their opinions about the healthcare they received. In the survey, it was revealed that, “disabled women were able to access important screening test, but health promotion services were not offered” (Branigan, Stewart, Tardif, & Veltman, 2001, p. 19). As we all know, healthcare is a nationwide issue and quality healthcare is needed by all. Healthcare providers need to collaborate with the government to implement laws and obtain funding for programs that will ensure the health needs of disabled individuals are met.
Approximately 10% of the global populations are people with disabilities, yet they are amongst the most underserved groups in terms of provision of quality healthcare. For disabled people, the issue of quality of and access to healthcare go hand in hand. Research shows that this population most of the time not only lack the opportunities to involve themselves in healthcare activities, but they do not also have sufficient access to healthcare (National Organization on Disability, 2000). Disabled people spend substantial efforts on educating their physicians regarding their disabilities, at times they feel that the doctors capitalize on their disabilities rather than the health problems they present.
Studies carried out in the United States to examine how disabled people perceive access to and quality of medical care, showed that a significant number of respondents perceived numerous challenges with regard to access to the healthcare as compared to the quality. Access barriers for people with disabilities include lack of knowledge with regard to disabilities by healthcare providers, unmet transport needs, being denied health care by doctors because of their disabilities, negative attitudes of physicians towards disabled people, as well as architectural barriers like unreachable examination tables, lack of sufficient ramps in hospitals etc (National Organization on Disability, 2000).
The numerous challenges being faced by people with disabilities have been attributed to their extensive healthcare needs, dependence on a wide range of supports and services, as well as their low or fixed incomes. Even with these challenges, little is known about supports and services needed by people with disabilities to enable them to live independently in the society, and the degree at which their needs are met by healthcare providers. This paper explores the challenges facing people with disabilities with regard to healthcare provision and provides solutions to address these challenges in order to facilitate greater participation for persons with disabilities in the society.
Obtaining quality healthcare for people with disabilities has been a critical challenge in the whole world. They face numerous challenges which range from physically inaccessible locations of healthcare providers, unsuitable diagnostic and exam equipments, to failure to amend hospital policies to accommodate the accommodation and communication needs of patients with different disabilities. While a number of federal laws that have been enacted to forbid discrimination against disabled individuals for instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which apply even to healthcare institutions, the lack of full enforcement of such laws to date have led to disabled people continually being discriminated against in nearly all aspects of life (National Organization on Disability, 2000).
The poor responses received by disabled people when seeking healthcare like the absolute denial of healthcare. Insufficient treatment is attributed to stereotypes and physicians’ ignorance about people with disabilities, physical/ procedural barriers, and hostility and prejudice. For instance, a deaf patient seeking for healthcare to a particular health issue might be turned away at a hospital door or given a hasty physical exam that fails to detect his or her problem, or even shouted at by healthcare providers for not bringing his own interpreters. Also the false assumption that disabled people live and get their healthcare in nursing homes has led to hospitals having diagnostic and examination equipments that are only suitable for patients who can stand or transfer themselves to tables and chairs.
A study carried out in Canada to assess healthcare quality and access to people with disabilities revealed that a considerably large number of people with physical disabilities are having difficulties accessing quality, adequate and proper healthcare services. One third of the 201 respondents interviewed reported having difficulties in accessing the offices, washrooms, and equipments of their family doctors; about one fifth of them felt that their family doctors were either oversensitive or insensitive about their disabilities, and another one fifth felt that the primary healthcare they were receiving was inadequate (Branigan, Stewart, Tardif, & Veltman, 2001). The findings for this study with regard to access difficulties are similar to those reported in the U.S., i.e. 38.8% and 34.8% of respondents in Canada and U.S. respectively, reported that they had difficulties in keeping medical appointments because of transportation problems. 26.9% of those interviewed said that doctors were allocating insufficient time for their medical appointments. These results are comparable to one third of American citizens with disabilities who have reported that physicians treat them hastily (Branigan, Stewart, Tardif, & Veltman, 2001).
The issues of health promotion and maintenance, as well as, sexual and reproductive health are also among the key problems numerous people with physical disabilities face. The survey revealed that only 54.5% of female respondents had received Pap smear tests every 2-3 years or less. Low discussion rates were also reported in the survey with only 28.4% of respondents willing to talk about sexuality, contraception, 17.9%, STDs, 14.4%, and reproductive options only 9.5% (Branigan, Stewart, Tardif, & Veltman, 2001). The above low rates reflect the lack of confidence that people with disabilities have in themselves and their doctors’ abilities to advise them appropriately regarding the various issues affecting them. It is, however, important to note that despite the significant number of disabled patients experiencing numerous challenges in accessing health care, 82.1% of those interviewed said that they were satisfied with the healthcare services provided to them by their family doctors. 19.4% however, felt that the services they received were inadequate while another 21.9% though that their disabilities prevented them from receiving proper healthcare (Branigan, Stewart, Tardif, & Veltman, 2001).
Numerous participants in the survey attributed their unmet healthcare needs to the lack of education and knowledge in relation to disabilities and the services that should be provided for people with disabilities. In a medical school curriculum for example, very little is taught to medical students about disabilities or how they are treated. The respondents in this study advocated for an inclusion of special education within the curriculum of medical schools so that future doctors will be aware of how to handle patients with disabilities. The implications of these studies are very clear that people with disabilities are facing a lot of challenges in accessing quality healthcare that is appropriate to their diverse needs, and something needs to be done to avert the situation.
Addressing the Challenges Facing Disabled People with Regard to Accessing Quality Healthcare
It is a fact that people with disabilities around the world are being underserved with regard to healthcare delivery and sweeping changes in the healthcare system are required to address the issue effectively (Drainoni, Lee-Hood, Tobias, & Bachman, 2006). Meeting the medical needs of disabled people is the provision of basic healthcare, or the specified clinical needs for those with chronic conditions, and multiple disabilities are a matter of quality and equality. Just as people who are poor, old, young or those coming from a minority ethnic group face numerous challenges in receiving quality health care, people with disabilities experience the same problems, plus additional barriers.
According to Garden (2010), the inclusion of special education in the curriculum of medicine schools will enable medical students to learn early enough about disabilities, and how persons with disabilities can be handled medically. This is very important because, it will help future doctors to treat disabled people equally, just like any other patient. Governments should also work closely with healthcare providers to come up with programs that integrate special education in hospitals, i.e. governments should sponsor professional development programs for healthcare providers to train them on disabilities and the medical requirements of people with disabilities. In addition, fully enforcing the anti-discrimination laws by governments will go a long way in reducing if not stopping the prejudice that disabled people face. The government should also fund public hospitals to enable them to fit out themselves with medical equipments that cater for the needs of both able and disable patients.
Assuming that the funds are available, the willingness of doctors to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the disabled is also very important. Physicians should ensure that their offices are accessible to disabled people, i.e. they should purchase examination tables that are adjustable in height and placed properly in examination rooms that accommodate diverse abilities of patients. Doctors should also learn to instill confidence in disabled patients so that they agree to be given certain tests (such as Pap smear) in alternative positions, i.e. in a wheelchair or on the side (Garden, 2010).
Physicians should also be more lenient with disabled patients when it comes to keeping appointment time, taking into consideration the difficulty in finding proper transportation services facing disabled people. Though this may not auger well with consultants or doctors in private clinics, who value every minute of their time, they should, however, learn to exercise a little patience for the sake of people with disabilities. In conclusion, doctors should realize that disabled people with disabilities are equally important like any one of us, and they have the right to quality healthcare just like all of us. A change of attitude towards people with disabilities is very important. Once doctors change their attitude, it will be easier to make the above suggested necessary adjustments in order to make their clinics and hospitals more accessible to disabled patients. In addition, the government should be fully committed to providing quality healthcare to all its citizens as well as protecting the rights of its citizens, including disabled people. They should make sure they enforce anti-discrimination laws, as well as to financially support hospitals and doctors who are willing to make adjustments to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.
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