Hundreds of doctors’ offices in Cyprus have no disability access in their offices, despite an obligation to do so dating back to 2011, the House human rights committee heard on Monday.
Reports from the ombudswoman and Gesy supervision commissioner were read out in parts during the parliamentary session, which MPs slammed calling on the health ministry to take action immediately.
In Nicosia alone, out of the hundreds of medical offices which are part of Gesy, only 34 have disability access. The vast majority of specialist doctors do not have any access for disabilities.
Specifically, out of a total of 259 GP practices, only 11 are accessible to people with disabilities.
Organisations representing people with disabilities stressed that Cyprus ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011 and has evidently been slacking.
A spokesperson for the ombudswoman’s office said both the health ministry and Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) are burdened with the responsibility of ensuring equal access.
The UN raised concerns with Cyprus over the matter in 2017, with a slew of recommendations.
The ombudswoman’s spokesperson added it’s not that that hard to ensure disability access. A suggestion put forth was to prepare a list of criteria, with disability organisations adding their input of requirements, and to ensure that all premises comply with the criteria by the end of the year.
Gesy supervision commissioner Christodoulos Kaisis told deputies the health ministry and HIO are expected to carry out inspections on sight.
He described the findings “problematic and concerning”.
A health ministry representative said the findings were taken seriously and highlighted the importance of offering proper training to nursing and care staff.
The representative added that a list of required criteria to ensure access for disabled persons is currently being prepared, while inspections will be ramped up.
Head of the Cyprus paraplegic association Demetris Lambrianides described the matter as “poor legislation”. He heralded the developments from the health ministry saying inspections and the list of criteria are “a huge step for progress over disability matters with Gesy”.
He added the organisation frequently receives complaints from members of the public who cannot access doctor’s offices and are often endangered in the process of trying to enter the building.
They are often forced to move to a different floor so as to use the bathroom and examination beds often do not have the right height. Additionally, other doctor’s offices do not have elevators.