Cyprus – Inaccessible Clinics for People with Disabilities – Out of 1447, only 34 declare accessibility.

Inaccessible Medical Clinics for PwDs – Out of 1447, only 34 declare accessibility

The overwhelming majority of healthcare providers in the Nicosia District have stated that their premises are not accessible to people with disabilities. This emerges from a survey conducted by the Commissioner of Supervision of the Ministry of Health, Christodoulos Kaisis, following related complaints he received.

It is worth noting that the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities to private and specialist doctors, as well as to laboratories contracted with GESY, is not the first time it has come to the forefront. In the past, the Commissioner of GESY documented numerous gaps and unjustifiable omissions in a report. Moreover, many complaints have already been recorded from people with disabilities who, due to a lack of parking spaces and difficulties in access, were unable to visit their doctors.

The issue is expected to be a subject of discussion in the upcoming session of the Health Committee of the Parliament, following a request for a self-initiated investigation by the Green Party Member of Parliament, Alexandra Attalidou. Furthermore, the Commissioner of GESY, Christodoulos Kaisis, sent a letter regarding the matter to the Health Insurance Organization, expressing concern that on the organization’s website, where citizens can check if a doctor’s or laboratory’s premises are accessible for people with disabilities, the vast majority of providers themselves declare that they are not accessible.

According to the Commissioner of Supervision, in recent times, he has received phone complaints from beneficiaries who, while searching for information in the GESY’s information system in an attempt to select a healthcare service provider, noticed that all providers or the vast majority state in their contact details that they are not accessible to people with disabilities

The beneficiaries were not only people with disabilities but also individuals who, due to old age or temporary health issues, wanted to select a healthcare facility that was easily accessible to receive health care services.

Indeed, Mr. Kaisis suggests that the information provided on the OAAY website regarding accessibility may have been added recently following an announcement made by OAAY on July 7, 2020. At that time, they asked providers to declare the accessibility of their building facilities for people with mobility issues.

The Commissioner for Medical Services conducted an investigation into this matter concerning GHS (General Healthcare System) doctors in the Nicosia district. According to the results, the overwhelming majority of providers in the GHS system have declared that they are not accessible to people with disabilities. Moreover, in most categories of doctors that were investigated, it appears that none of the providers are accessible.

“The above finding,” the Commissioner notes, “raises doubts about the accuracy of the entries, as it is reported that the received information was posted without concern for the very low percentages of accessibility declared.” “The above finding,” as indicated by the Commissioner, “raises doubts about the accuracy of the entries, as it is reported that there is no access even in providers who operate in facilities of large hospitals. This information must be precise to facilitate individuals facing access difficulties in selecting the provider they will visit. Furthermore, we are concerned about the OAAY’s stance, as it appears that after a significant period from the announcement dated July 7, 2020, in which providers were called upon to declare the accessibility of the building facilities they use, the received information was posted without any consideration for the very low percentages of accessibility declared,” he states.

The ultimate goal, as Mr. Kaisis concludes in his letter, “is the complete resolution of the issue of accessibility of healthcare service providers to ensure full access for people with disabilities and all beneficiaries in all healthcare service facilities within the framework of GHS. However, until this goal is achieved, we kindly request your comments and views on the declarations of accessibility of building facilities used by GHS providers for people with disabilities, and to be informed about your actions on the matter.”

As per the information provided in the letter by the Commissioner of Oversight of GESY, out of the 1447 healthcare providers contracted with GESY in the Nicosia District, only 34 have declared to OAAY that their premises are accessible for people with disabilities. Specifically, out of the 259 adult personal doctors, only eleven have declared their premises as accessible, while none of the 75 pediatric doctors contracted with GESY declared their premises as accessible. Even the specialist orthopedic doctors, who one might assume would have and declare accessible premises for individuals with mobility issues, out of the 71, only three declared having accessible clinics.

The question that arises is whether indeed only 34 clinics in the entire Nicosia district are accessible to people with disabilities, which is a significant issue that OAAY needs to address promptly, or if for some reason, the premises were inaccurately marked as non-accessible on the organization’s website. This is a question that is expected to be answered in the Parliament.

Source: National Federation of the Blind