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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Why 3m disabled people should access healthcare in Lagos

If people with disability in Lagos State are unable to take up sexual and reproductive health services available at Lagos hospitals, there will be increase in the spread of HIV and maternal/child mortality. In consequence, the universal health coverage will not be achieved. This is the submission of the Nigeria Association of the Blind and Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS), during the recent launch of a policy document titled: “Promoting Uptake of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services” among people living with disability in Lagos State.

L-R: Dr Adebayo, Ms.Okotie and Mrs. Beyioku-Alase of Joint Association of Disabled people in Lagos

According to the document, there are three million people with disabilities in Lagos, and these are unable to access the several free health services being implemented by the State government due to certain barriers. Sadly, there are no policy frameworks to address these barriers.

“Uneven access to the hospital and health center buildings (such as lack of ramps), inaccessible medical equipment, poor signage, narrow doors, inadequate bathroom facilities, inaccessible parking areas create barriers, the Document reads. Furthermore it states that women with mobility difficulties are often unable to access breast and cervical cancer screening because examination tables are not height-adjustable and mammography equipment only accommodate women who are able to stand.

“People with disabilities were more than twice likely to report finding healthcare provider skills inadequate to meet their needs and four times more likely to report being treated badly and nearly three times more likely to report being denied of care.”

At the meeting, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, board member of Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, said all the laudable efforts of Lagos State Government in health care will be of no effect if there are no policy frameworks to ensure people with disabilities can access it. Despite the existence of the Lagos State Special people Law of 2011 which provides free health care for persons living with disabilities and the existence of several health sector law and policies at the State and national levels, people with disabilities are still largely excluded because health administrators lack requisite awareness and capacity as well as required facilities and infrastructure to effectively provide a disability-inclusive healthcare services in Lagos State.

As a result, some of them who public health services once shy away another time because their human rights are abused.

Ms. Ejiro Okotie of the Nigeria Association of the Blind told her experience: “Since the last time I was at the hospital, the way they treated me, I don’t go there anymore. The doctor did not talk to me directly. He had to ask the person that brought me of my complaints. Even after that he told me that there is nothing he can do about my sight. He was so unfriendly that I made up my mind that whatever happens to me, I will take care of myself at home. And I thank God that I don’t fall sick.”

The documented posits that 80 percent of the world’s population of people with disabilities, live in poor and middle income countries where they are largely marginalised or totally excluded from all sectors of society and lack of basic access.

Many other respondents at a focused group discussion organised by JAAIDS said there was no means of communicating their grievances on poor inhumane treatment and neglect by unfriendly healthcare services as there was no dedicated service complaint point for them in public facilities.

Another difficulty they encounter is the wrong perception that they are not sexual beings. “People with disability have equal rights to sexual desires and hopes as non-disabled people, but society has disregarded their rights, Mrs. Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase, State Chairperson of Joint National Association of Persons with Disability, said. “They are held to be asexual beings,” she added.

Other complaints from this group include the lack of consideration of their opinions or preferences in adopting appropriate medical procedures, particularly as it relates to child birth, lack of privacy and lack of information on sexual and reproductive health. Similarly, they say there is limited capacity of healthcare professionals, long waiting time with no preference for people with disabilities.

Interactions with health workers revealed that most of them had not been trained on disability-sensitive skills and orientation and other health information were not accessible to the blind and those with intellectual disabilities.

In line with global best practices a disability-inclusive legal and policy framework is expected to include provision of mobility aids, relevant support professionals, example sign language interpreters, provide accessible facilities and infrastructure, inclusive and accessible health information, ensure disability inclusion in health training institution and provide capacity amongst health workers.

By Abiose Adelaja-Adams

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