Dr. Vishal Sehgal, Portea Medical’s Medical Director, points out the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities and presents five points to consider to meet medical needs during a pandemic.
The global crisis affects people in all areas. Especially if it is a health-related crisis. COVID-19 has emerged as one of such pandemics that has a profound impact on people’s health, both physically and mentally. The virus can affect anyone, but just by looking at past health emergencies, such a crisis affects the poor, on the one hand the most marginalized and on the other hand the disabled. Enough to understand that it affects. People with disabilities are also more vulnerable to their underlying health because they are also comorbid. If infected with COVID-19, this can increase the severity of the symptoms. People with disabilities are also at increased risk because they do not have easy access to information. Even so, you may not have access to the format depending on their needs. For example, in Braille, there are large print, sign language, and so on.
Another part of the problem is related to the fact that COVID-19 prevention mandates social distance. This can limit the availability of home care that is essential to them. People in long-term care facilities may also catch infections from others. Therefore, COVID-19 is one of the major health inequality that people with disabilities must face. The fact that things weren’t helping them anymore exacerbates this. Here are five points to consider in order to meet the medical needs of such people in the era of pandemics.
Take into account their unique needs
One of the main lessons from COVID-19 was the need to include palliative care as part of the preparation. This includes access to medicines and equipment, as well as testing and other medical needs. This is where home health care can play a major role. Having a dedicated caregiver for people with disabilities ensures that they meet their overall health, social and psychological needs.
Form a public-private partnership
Every pandemic reiterates how governments, civil society organizations, and start-ups must work together to ensure access to quality health care. For people with disabilities, this type of coordination ensures that they are provided with care and support and that their rights are protected. Another area where they can work together is in terms of access to information in a format that people with disabilities can understand. This ensures that only relevant and verified information arrives.
Focus on primary care, including home care
Primary health care for persons with disabilities needs to be strengthened, including access to emergency care in hospitals. Some needs can be met through home care, but for others, primary health care must be accessible near where they live. Separately, community healthcare workers can be trained and mobilized to make home visits for non-specialized services, such as accompanying them to a nearby care center as needed. A good example quoted here is Rwanda’s network of 45,000 community health workers.
Develop a patient-centric approach
A patient-centered approach with personalized care is a time-consuming process for people with disabilities. For them, access to care and alternative choices should be as open as those without disabilities. The focus should shift from disability to health conditions that afflict them, including infections such as COVID-19. This ensures that the treatment given gives them dignity while respecting their opinions and hopes.
Training and sensitization
All healthcare professionals, including home caregivers, must be trained and sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. This should be an integral part of the healthcare professional’s learning curriculum. Disability can affect anyone, and understanding special needs can give people the knowledge and skills they need to deal with any situation. Overall, the idea is to help people with disabilities receive respectful, inclusive and fair treatment.
COVID-19 indicates that there are gaps in the health care of people with comorbidities and disabilities. Only effective healthcare systems derived from best practices, lessons, and recommendations regarding the specific health needs of people with disabilities can ensure that their needs are met.
Responding to medical needs of persons with disabilities during a pandemic
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