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Premier multi-disciplinary autonomous public research organization

Healthcare for Persons with Disability in the Time of Corona

Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), organized a seminar as part of the organization’s series of BIDS Fortnightly Seminar 2021-2022 on November 3, 2021 at 2:30 pm. Dr. Anwara Begum, Senior Research Fellow of BIDS presented her research titled, “Healthcare for Persons with Disability in the Time of Corona”. Dr. Binayak Sen, Director General of BIDS chaired the event. The seminar was conducted in a hybrid format.  

It was discussed that persons with disability are braving higher risks during this pandemic, compared to the general people. Men, women and children with disability often operate under a shadow of social stigma and experience financial and social dependency, and require care-givers, sighted guides, interpreters. Even during this pandemic, physical distancing is not possible for people with disability. Moreover, lack of appropriate vehicle services, preponderance of tertiary healthcare in primate cities, absence of training and awareness among nurses on specific needs of these vulnerable people; physically impaired, neo developmental children, all add up to creating challenges. 

The primary objective of this study was to understand the severity of constraints, inequality in access to healthcare of persons with disability, who coped with Covid-19 during this pandemic. The predicament of persons with disability is two-fold: the labour market is almost inaccessible for them and sharp barriers to accessing basic essential services, prevail. This qualitative research delineated a case, one out of the total persons with disabilities, responded positively to receiving the announced disability allowance. It underscores the financial hardship that many persons with disability experience. With the corona infection their burden has increased and it is almost a double blow for them.  

Majority, which is 80 %, of the hospital heads and administrators conceded that they do not have specially trained doctors and nurses, healthcare providers who are adept at handling patients with disability. Such patients are referred to special hospitals and almost all large private hospitals lack healthcare facilities for persons with disability. More than 86 % of hospital representatives said that Corona infection aggravated the problems of disabled patients, more than the able patients. Notably, none, among persons with disability, refuted this statement. There was unanimity among respondents who agreed that - “Healthcare is costly for most patients but prohibitive for those who are poor and suffering from a disability”. Girls suffering from autism have lost more than a year of educational gains they had developed, aided by trained assistants and peers. It is imperative to address the specific needs of those with disability, through targeted allocation of resources, such as training more doctors and nurses for treatment of disabled patients, or setting up especially designed wash basins for those in wheelchairs. While these options might not be immediately implementable, there should be plans of providing free masks and sanitizers to these marginalized people, or setting up subsidized medical schemes for them. Special training should be given to administrators, care-givers, policy makers- and ease of access to service for persons with disability, should be prioritized. 

Also, structurally enabling set-up, ramps and toilets could be made ubiquitously accessible. Nurses accepted that their syllabus and training was not designed for supervising patients with disability; therefore, extra training is required for patients who have need of the maximum skill and care, and patients with disability are among the most vulnerable who require specialized care.

Women, on account of their reproductive functions have to take special personal care but in situations when care-givers are absent, the chores become insurmountable; therapists and specialized care-givers are trained on therapeutic workout but no service operated during this crisis. These women are unable to perform therapeutic exercises, functions of daily living and use assistive devices in the absence of caregivers, which are a vital part of their regular healthcare. During the time of corona, no other ailment, even critical patients, are deemed important. Knowledge about asymptomatic spread is unknown among them. Due to donning of masks, deaf could not lip-read.

Although highly contagious, awareness about this disease and related information has increased somewhat due to its life threatening nature but service for persons with disability is still not forthcoming. There is an imperative need to promote human rights of people with disability as laid down by the UNCRPD.

Un-bundling the issues could inform more sensitive policy formulation in favour of men, women and children with disability, inadvertently left out in the arena of Covid-19.

Senior Research Fellows of BIDS, namely, Dr. S.M. Zulfiqar Ali, Dr. Mohammad Yunus, Research Fellows of BIDS, Dr. Mohammad Mainul Hoque, Dr. Azreen Karim, Consultant from BIGD Ms. Rifat S. Khan, Dr. Sharifa Begum, (Former BIDS Researcher: attending this seminar, on-line, along with many others), Ms. Nahian Azad Shashi, Research Associate of BIDS, Channel I Reporter Mr. Rezvi Newaz, among other distinguished guests, spoke in the seminar. 

Meeting recording link here

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