Persons with disabilities were at a higher risk than the general population during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study done by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
The study findings state that the sufferings of people with disabilities have increased in getting healthcare at the time of Covid-induced lockdowns due to difficulties in movement, shortage of appropriate vehicles, absence of trained nurses on the specific needs of disabled patients, and costly treatment.
The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies revealed the findings of the study titled "Healthcare for Persons with Disability in the Time of Corona" at a programme on Wednesday.
According to the study, differently-abled patients faced more challenges (compared to physically and mentally able patients) in getting healthcare during the Covid-19 period. Covid infection intensified the problems of patients with disabilities, more than the able patients.
Dr Anwara Begum, a senior research fellow of the BIDS, conducted the study. 50 persons with disabilities from Dhaka, Bagerhat, Barguna and Satkhira and 15 healthcare providers from leading hospitals in Dhaka, Chattogram and Rajshahi were the participants in the study.
94.6% of participants said lack of education and less income (not being rich) make patients with disabilities more vulnerable.
Many healthcare providers are unaware of persons with disabilities seeking medical assistance in their hospitals. 80% of hospitals do not have specially trained doctors and nurses to handle persons with disabilities, the study said.
The study finds that physical distancing is not possible for people with disabilities even during this pandemic. Moreover, manoeuvring patients with wheelchairs required more resources, manpower and structural design.
Especially persons with cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome are completely dependent on caregivers and have found it difficult to maintain Covid-19 precautions such as maintenance of social distancing.
Lack of appropriate vehicular services, the preponderance of tertiary healthcare in key cities, absence of training and awareness among nurses on specific needs of these vulnerable people; the physically impaired, neo-developmental children, adds to challenges during Covid-19, it adds.
Dr Anwara Begum said, "Persons with disabilities are referred to specific hospitals only, as most hospitals do not have trained doctors and nurses. It is imperative to increase efforts to address their specific needs through a targeted allocation of resources, such as training more doctors and nurses for treatment of disabled patients, or setting up specially designed washbasins for those in wheelchairs."
While these options might not be immediately implementable, there should be plans of providing free masks and sanitisers or setting up subsidised medical schemes for these marginalised people, she added.
Dr Anwara Begum said special training should be arranged for administrators, caregivers, and policymakers. And ease of access to service for persons with disabilities should be prioritised.
Some 1.5 crore people or 9.2% of the country's total population are suffering from different types of disabilities.