Medical Services Accessibility Project

Hundreds of thousands of people in Israel who have physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory disabilities do not receive equal and dignified medical service because health services are not accessible to their needs. Some clinics have steps at their entrance; many elevators are not equipped with PA systems; medical and other equipment is not accessible; it is impossible to make appointments by fax or email; and in most cases medical and nursing personnel have not been trained to treat people with intellectual or mental disabilities. As a result, people with disabilities are less likely to go for regular checkups, and receive treatment only when their medical condition worsens and they require urgent intervention.
Bizchut has decided to take action to respond to this violation of the right of people with disabilities to receive medical treatment adapted to their needs. We designed an accessible clinic to serve as a model for adapting facilities to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Among the physical changes, accessible toilets were built; access ramps installed; and accessible medical equipment purchased, including a hydraulic gynecologist’s chair enabling the patient to move independently from their wheelchair to the examination chair. After completing these physical adaptations, we held a training course for the clinic staff focusing on ways to ensure that they provide an accessible service. The course was run by professionals from Bizchut together with people with disabilities, and was attended by physicians, nurses, and administrative personnel. The short course introduces the staff to the different types of disability and ways these can be addressed, in order to ensure that people with disabilities receive the same medical treatment as other clients.
Ongoing reports of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in receiving services, together with the positive feedback from medical staff to our training course, encouraged us to continue our work in this field.
To date, we have run our training course at numerous hospitals around Israel, including Hadassah Medical Center (Ein Kerem and Mt. Scopus), Sheba – Tel Hashomer Hospital, Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Herzfeld Hospital in Gedera, Bikur Cholim and Sha’are Zedek Hospitals in Jerusalem, as well as in clinics around Israel belonging to Leumit, Maccabi, and Clalit HMOs.
The direct encounter with clients and the heightened awareness of their needs have led to practical changes in the field. Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem now enables appointments to be scheduled by email, thereby enhancing access for people with hearing impairments. After participating in our training course, the staff at Tel Hashomer Medical Center decided that physicians treating blind patients will call them in personally when it is time for their appointment. A special sticker is placed on the patient’s file for this purpose. Maccabi HMO is preparing a fully-accessible clinic that will serve as a model and enable study of this subject by all its clinics.
* Bizchut’s training courses are in high demand among medical service providers, including hospitals and clinics. In 2008, 16 sessions were held around the country for a total of 450 professionals.
Ensuring that medical services are accessible to people with disabilities realizes their right to health, as well as their right to equality and full integration in the community. The Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law establishes that all health services, and the facilities in which they are provided, must be made accessible to people with all types of disabilities. This process is due to be completed by 2018 on the basis of plans to be agreed by the HMOs and the Minister of Health.