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A year of inactivity for PWD accessible clinics – Lack of political will…

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 Eνας χρoνος αδ&rho νιγιβσεΑια ;τρεα - Eλεψη ποιτικor βολησ ;ς...

One year after the issuance of a binding recommendation by the Commissioner of Administration, to the OAU and the Ministry of Health, in order to take measures so that all medical practices and health service centers are accessible to people with disabilities, nothing has changed

Suffering without end for patients, PWDs and people with mobility problems, who face problems accessing health services. Clinics, chemists, x-ray diagnostic centers are not accessible to this group of patients. Some are located in old buildings without elevators, ramps and all the necessary things that make access possible for all patients. Some others do not have medical equipment that is accessible to all patients, such as a special examination bed. This specific issue has been highlighted for some time, with patients crying out for inaction on the part of the competent bodies. In fact, relevant recommendations were made to the Health Insurance Organization (OHA) and the Ministry of Health, by the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights, Maria Stylianou-Lottidou, who, due to the delays experienced by those responsible for taking measures, in July 2023 issued a binding recommendation to the two bodies. Today, little of everything that the commissioner indicated to the ministry and the OAU has been done, with the patients' suffering continuing.

Lottidos recommendations

Among other things in her recommendation, Mrs. Lottidou stated that the Ministry of Health, “by the end of September 2023 at the latest, should prepare, in consultation and cooperation with the representative organizations of people with disabilities, a list of the criteria/requirements and specifications of accessibility that the facilities/properties and equipment of private hospitals should meet and forward it to the OAH”, while for the OAH he noted that the organization must “inform all contracted health care service providers that within a short period of time, possibly two-three months, a transitional period of twelve (maximum) months will begin, within which they will have to take the necessary actions to enable the renewal of their contracts”. It is worth noting that the commissioner's recommendation is binding, which implies that the commissioner's office will have to request a justification why the recommendation has not yet been implemented and will then proceed (based on legislation) to publish the non-compliance in the Government's Official Gazette or in fines.

The facts

As they are in to the knowledge of “P”, the events from the issuance of the commissioner's binding recommendation until today are briefly as follows:

  • In October 2023, the commissioner's office sent a letter to OAH and the Ministry of Health, through which the authorities were asked to inform about the status of the whole issue.
  • In the same month, the Ministry of Health prepared an indicative list of criteria, which he sent to OPAK and KYSOA organizations, asking them to submit their positions, in order to arrive at the final list of criteria.
  • During the process of preparing the list of criteria, it was found that the Roads and Buildings Law of the Ministry of the Interior defines, among other things, the minimum criteria for the disabled in hospitals. For this reason, he proceeded to prepare some individual criteria, which he sent to the OAU and included the points of the law on roads and buildings that concern hospitals.
  • In December, the OAU addressed the Ministry of Health requesting an update on the final list of criteria, with the aim of adding the condition to the new contracts that the organization would sign with doctors. The ministry, as we were informed, delayed sending the OAU the list, in which there are, apparently, several ambiguities, while an issue had also arisen regarding the checks of compliance with the criteria.

< p >After the exchange of letters between OAH and the Ministry of Health, and with the issue not being resolved, last May the general director of OAH, Andreas Papakonstantinou, held a meeting with representatives of the organized patients, during which they were asked, as from the list of criteria given by the ministry to the OAU define which are the criteria that should be prioritized and for which a transition period should be given to the providers in order to make the necessary changes.

< p >The responsibilities of the ministry

As Dimitris Lambrianidis, president of the Paraplegics Organization of Cyprus (OPAK), stated in his statements to “P”, after the meeting with the OAU, “we have started to study the criteria that the organization put forward to us and within the next few days we will be able to file and discuss our final proposal with the agency.” Referring to why all this delay occurred, with the result that a year after the recommendation of the commissioner no substantial change has been made, Mr. Lambrianidis explained that a significant share of the responsibility lies with the Ministry of Health. According to the president of OPAK, the ministry delayed but also did not deal with the issue to a satisfactory degree. “They sent a list to the OAU and from there they left the issue to the organization. From what it seems, they fail to understand that their role is to produce policy and make decisions, for the good of patients, which they should check whether the OAU and each OAU follow”, he emphasized. He also noted that what the ministry mentions about the law on accessibility, which also applies to clinics, in this case, is not enough, underlining that “we are not just talking about access to the building but about access to health services. A doctor's office may have ramps and elevators but not have the necessary medical equipment, which will be needed in order to examine the disabled patient safely and respectfully. The simplest thing, an examination bed that goes up and down so that wheelchair users, the elderly and people with mobility problems can get on it. Not all clinics have the special bed.” He added that although most clinics today provide their services within the NHS, this does not mean that the clinics that were left out of the system can do whatever they want and this is the main reason why the ministry should take over immediate action. “Unfortunately, what we find is that there is no political will on the part of the Ministry of Health to move the matter forward,” concluded Mr. Lambrianidis.

Source: politis.com.cy

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