Many people in Jordan take it for granted how easy it is for them to reach a doctor, clinic, healthcare provider or hospital when they need it. Every year, we have thousands of doctors graduating from universities across the country so the issue is not lack of availability of care. The issue is being able to reach this care in terms of accessibility. After obtaining my spinal cord injury and leaving the hospital, reaching a doctor became one of the biggest challenges of my life. Every time I needed medical attention, I had to find a doctor based on the accessibility of their clinic or if they can come see me at my house instead of picking a doctor based on their experience or reputation. Many times, my mom has to go see doctors on my behalf and explain to them my medical need without them seeing me in person because their clinics aren’t accessible. Sometimes, we would make an appointment at a doctor’s clinic only to get there and find out I couldn’t enter the building the clinic is in.
A few years ago, I spilled boiling coffee on me and burned the entire side of my abdomen. I needed to see a doctor urgently because the burns were very bad. Immediately, my mom called a very reputable doctor in Jordan, who knows my family and my situation, and specializes in plastic surgery and burns and made an appointment to see him. She asked the secretary specifically if the clinic was accessible and the secretary informed her that it was. She also told her that I was badly burned and the secretary told her that I will be given a priority appointment to see the doctor. I was lucky enough to have gone to this appointment with my mom, aunt and sister because as soon as we arrived we found out that the building entrance had 8-10 steps in front of it. My mom, aunt and sister had to carry me all the way up the stairs because we already got there and it was critical for me to see this doctor. Once I reached the clinic, we found out the doctor was not there and needed an hour or so to get back. After 30 minutes of waiting, the secretary present asked us why we’re here and my mom told her that I am burned. Then she casually replies that the doctor stopped treating burn patients a while ago and he won’t accept to see me. We couldn’t believe it because we know this doctor personally and he knows my situation, plus my mom already explained it over the phone when she made the appointment. My aunt decided to call the doctor to convince him to treat me and he refused. So after 1 hour of struggling to reach the clinic and waiting to see the doctor, I had to leave and find another doctor who was willing to come to my house and treat me because we couldn’t find any doctor with an accessible clinic. This is one of many, many experiences of me not being able to get to a doctor and receive the medical attention I needed like any other person because of my physical disability.
Access to healthcare is a right and not a privilege. I should be able to go to any doctor I want without having to worry about stairs, if I will be allowed to park in the building’s underground parking just so I can access the building, street parking, or any other barriers that have simple solutions. Clinics should also be clear about their accessibility and the services they do provide so no one has to go through the trouble I went through and not be able to get the treatment needed. Accessibility also includes the ability to access medical equipment and services. For example, many times examination tables are too high and not height-adjustable so people with mobility impairment cannot easily transfer on to them. Also, women with mobility impairments are often unable to access breast and cervical cancer screening mammography equipment because they only accommodate women who are able to stand. All people with disabilities have the same healthcare needs as everyone else in society and equally require access to healthcare services as everyone else. All clinics, healthcare providers, equipment and hospitals need to be accessible for everyone.
The Higher Council on the Rights of People with Disabilities put together a great video demonstrating the struggles people with disabilities face on one of the most popular streets of Amman when it comes to clinics and healthcare providers, Al-Khalidi Street. Please watch it!
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