Times of India, 30 July 2014
NEW DELHI: If you are disabled and believe that at least the hospitals will be sensitive to your needs, you are in for some disappointment. For, more than a year after Medical Council of India issued its circular seeking compliance reports stating the degree to which the institutions are accessible to disabled, only 52 medical colleges responded.
In fact, RTI replies this year revealed that even Medical Council of India has not issued directions to medical institutions to appoint sign language interpreters or make their websites accessible to visually impaired persons.
MCI asked medical colleges to submit the compliance report on March 29, 2013. And, in April 2014, Delhi high court observed that "health is not a luxury" and that it "should not be the sole possession of a privileged few".
"MCI should take this seriously and include disabled persons in all policy decisions," said Satendra Singh, professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi University, who had made a representation to the chief commissioner of PWD on the same issue last year.
The letter from Medical Council of India (MCI) to medical colleges last year was reportedly a result of this representation. Singh had also asked for access audits to be made a mandatory part of MCI's inspection before accreditation.
Those who responded to MCI's circular include All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi apart from Gold Field Institute of Medical Sciences and Research in Faridabad, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital, Assam, Peoples College of Medical Science and Research Centre, Bhopal, and GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad.
But MCI, too, has not maintained data like number of medical institutions having a physical medicine and rehabilitation department in India and details of enabling units for persons with disabilities in medical colleges.
Dubbing many of these efforts an "eyewash", Singh said that All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi had constituted a committee following the directive but still major parts like the library are inaccessible as the committee did not include disabled persons.
An access audit to make medical colleges barrier-free was conducted by an NGO in the capital, but the report has not yet been implemented, he informed.
Singh also said that a majority of the hospitals lack accessible toilets, there is no provision for separate queues or reserved parking for patients with disabilities and even Medical Council of India inspections do not include access audits.
"It's the social accountability of medical institutions to protect the right to health of disabled persons. Being in hospital is a worrying time for any patient, but imagine what it is like if you are unable to communicate with the doctor in an emergency room," Singh said.
He added, "Are deaf patients not entitled to live a healthy life? Why are blind patients unable to find a doctor of their choice or find out their OPD timings from hospital websites? It's simply because they haven't been made readable to them".
Most medical colleges ignore directive on facilities for disabled
AIIMS plans access to disabled, others silent
MCI asks all medical institutions to be 'accessible'