People With Disabilities (PWDs have called on the Lagos State government to implement the Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) laws and policies in the state.
Lagos State government currently has no specific policy on SRH, although, the State has implemented a number of SRH programmes none of which are disability inclusive.
It is observed that the Lagos States government has no framework or processes in place to implement the disability components of this national-level SRH and policies.
While there exist health sector legal and policy framework in the state with barely minimal provisions, which promote access of People With Disabilities (PWDs) to health services, there are significant limitations in these health laws and policies, which largely inhibit the uptake of SRH and other health services by PWDs.
There is poor implementation of relevant provisions in existing health laws and policies particularly the health provisions of the Lagos State Special Peoples Law of 2011, which makes provisions for free, and inclusive health services for PWDs.
Speaking at a policy round table discussion organised by Journalist Against AIDS (JAAIDS) and Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) in collaboration with Lagos State Office For Disability Affairs, (LASODA), the Director, Monitoring and Evaluation for LASODA, Mr. Ogunloye Akintunde Oyewole said “there is a law since 2011 that says, there should be free medical services for PWDs in Lagos State and it has become a right for these people to access health without charge.
But, he said, “most times i had had to call Igando, Lagos Island and Ikorodu general hospitals because PWDs were denied access to free medical services”
Recounting his experience, Oyewole said, “there was a time, I had to turn back after reaching my office to Ikorodu general hospital and when I got there, I noticed that a hearing impaired person has been held for almost five weeks. She was not discharged after delivery because she didn’t have money to pay.
“Another visually impaired was also there for two weeks without been discharged. The hospital was planning to bring her down from the bed to create bed space for other patients. I spoke with the person in charge of welfare. I waited until both the hearing and visually impaired women were discharged.”
He appealed to hospitals to follow what the law says to render free medical services to PWDs. While appealing to the consciences of policy makers to take matters concerning PWDs seriously, stating that, “this program was designed for Permanent Secretaries but what we have here are representatives sent by these Permanent Secretaries with the knowledge that these representatives cannot change the simplest of policies.
“I would have loved a situation where some of the key controllers of Ministries Department and Agencies, (MDAs) are here to listen to what are saying. Disability law is a State law.
“Government itself need to see PWDs as a priority. PWDs matter should be taken seriously as that road project carried out by the State government.”
Also speaking at the event, representing the permanent secretary, Health Service Commission, Mrs Runsewe Feluntola said that, in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Health, we have trained some health workers on sign language interpretation, a doctor and a nurse from each facility.
She added that, “now we know that two days is not sufficient to learn all there is, we hope to do another retraining. I am sure those trained must have left the system by now. We will look at that and see what we can do.
“As regards the Rams and making the infrastructure more accessible for clients. We will take that back to the office. We will also make sure that PWDs are more inclusive in our health care services.
“We also need to get the kind of services that should be rendered. If we can get a policy statement from LASODA, that would help and we can present that to the Ministry of Health and we will find a way to work out something in the health facilities.
The Medical Directors will be carried along because they are the first point of call at the facility level since they are the ones working with the doctors as well relate some of these messages to the health workers. So that when next we meet, we would know how far we have gone.”
Ejiro Okotie, Program Coordinator, National Association for the Blind, (NAB), said part of the activities the Association we have selected three hospitals as part of our pilot project to engage with health care facilities.
“These three hospitals are namely; Randle, Ikorodu and Badagry general hospitals because they represent the three senatorial district of Lagos State. We had a one-day sensitization talk with the health workers.”
The findings we got as we engaged with those three hospitals are that; a lot of people do not know the Special Peoples Law of Lagos State.
“Our engagement with these hospitals, we also found out that at the top level management staff are knowledgeable about the disability law while at the lower level, the people that engage with PWDs on a daily basis, a lot of them are not aware of the law.
“They also have the impression that PWDs are aggressive and it comes with the preconceived idea from a PWD that he will be treated badly. They are already in that attitude, expecting to be neglected, discriminated.
“Also part of it is the health worker not being able to understand the PWDs and that is a challenge for them. Shortage of personnel in the facilities and they have a lot of people to attend to and may not have adequate time for patient with disability as much as they would want to,” he emphasised.