Is There a Doctor in the House?
For most people, going to a family doctor for medical care is an ordinary occurrence. However, recent research indicates that young adults with physical disabilities have an extremely difficult and frustrating experience trying to access health care from a family physician.
One parent, who is also the executive director of a disability organization, described the challenge as upsetting: “We’ve been trying to get a family doctor who will take somebody with a disability… It becomes a lifelong commitment for that physician and they realize that it’s an ongoing chronic condition, and [they wonder] whether they have time for that or they want to be bothered with it.” She added, “It’s really difficult… when total health [care is provided] for 19 or 20 years of your life, and then all of a sudden you’re an adult and poof, that all goes out the window.”
Recent articles maintain that, for those with physical disabilities, the training, attitudes and behaviours of health professionals towards them are vital. Health professionals, especially family physicians, play an important role in the lives of people with physical disabilities. These roles include providing health care, acting as the “gatekeeper” to treatment, influencing health policy and society, and training future professionals. Negative attitudes from health professionals can lead to avoidance and anxiety about health for consumers.
A first step to improving access to health care for young adults with disabilities is to examine the health care barriers, needs and desires of young adults with physical disabilities, and to investigate the perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of family physicians regarding the care of persons with physical disabilities. If this first step, and those following, are successful, hopefully one day EVERYONE will be able to find a “doctor in the house.”
(If you have any comments, please call Catherine Steele at Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre in Toronto, (416) 424-3855 (or 1-800-363-2440), ext. 3642, or e-mail email@example.com.)