Participants at a Word Bank capacity building workshop in Accra on heath accessibility to people with disabilities (PWDs) are urging health institutions to expand disability inclusion to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As first step, the participants called for the establishment of Disability Desks, and where they already exist, to be adequately resourced, with enhanced means of health communication and messages to the benefit of the physically challenged.
The establishment of the Disability Desks, to be manned by specially trained health professionals, would enable persons with physical and mental challenges have focused attention by health professionals in health facilities.
"The Disability Desks, suggested by participants, would also enable management of health institutions and the Ministry to be regularly updated on addressing emergency health needs of people with physical challenges and mental challenges," Ms Rita Kusi Kyeremaa, Executive Director of Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD) told the Ghana New Agency (GNA), after a session at the workshop on Monday.
Ms Kyeremaa added: "We are here at a session to train health workers on disability issues.
"This is an event that is being sponsored by the World Bank through the Ministry of Health as part of the Covid-19 emergency response programme.
"We are trying to enhance the knowledge of health workers, especially frontline health workers, in their dealings with PWDs at the health facilities in this time of Covid.
"Today, we are taking them through the whole concept of disability, concept of inclusion and discussing how best we can include in practical terms the need of the physically challenged in our health facilities."
Ms Kyeremaa stressed on the need to expand disability inclusion, and explained that attention to the needs of PWDs in health institutions had been based on medical models, with policies and practices not really focused on PWDs.
"Access to health is a challenge to PWDs, in some cases health services are inaccessible; there are negative perceptions and activities towards PWDs.
According to the Executive Director, the kind of communication that exists@ in accessing health facilities have all come to deepen the need to increase knowledge on disability inclusion.
"With the outbreak of Covid-19, it has even deepened more because PWDs will have to break all odds to have better services when they are becoming a challenge".
Ms Kyeremaa called for a critical look at health disability inclusion by all stakeholders.
Mr Kwame Mensah, Programmes Officer of GFD, announced that the workshop, which attracted health professionals and workers from some public health facilities in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions, would be replicated in four other regions with participants from eight more regions.
"GFD with the support from World Bank is organizing workshops to build the capacity of health care workers in five zones (10 regions) across the country in making provisions of disability-inclusive health care during emergencies for persons with disabilities," Mr Mensah said.
He noted that PWDs have traditionally been excluded during the planning and delivery of disaster response and preparedness measures, including the planning and delivery of health services.
"They are not often counted or identified before, during or after emergencies, and are rarely consulted or represented in emergency risk management.
"The caregivers, families of persons with disability and health service providers may also lack knowledge and information about what they can do in emergency contexts to support persons with disability."
Many persons with disabilities have additional underlying health needs that make them particularly vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, if they contract it.
Also, persons with disabilities may also be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 because information about the disease, including the symptoms and prevention, are not provided in accessible formats such as print materials in Braille, sign language interpretation, captions, audio provision, graphics and tactile communication.