As the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic has hit Europe support and social care services have reacted quickly, to adapt to the needs of the current situation. As health services become under increasing strain, reports are growing of persons with disabilities experiencing additional discrimination in access to healthcare, based on their perceived general health status and medical condition. The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities’ (EASPD) supports Disabled Person’s Organisations in their call for the equal treatment of persons with disabilities in the triage process.
On 29th April EASPD’s latest COVID-19 webinar brought together high-level speakers representing the academic world, the support services sector, users and authorities to discuss how services can prioritise health resources and organise the care paths of users during the pandemic. Too often support providers, carers and medical staff have faced the dilemma of how to prioritise health resources and the care they can provide to patients. In this triage process, persons with disabilities have been at risk of experiencing additional discrimination, based on their perceived general health status and medical condition.
The lack of inclusive preventative strategies, the vulnerability and dangers of care settings; discrimination with respect to policies on the rationing of services and intersectional impact were identified as major issues affecting persons with disabilities and the organisations providing support to them. In this respect, “the exceptional situation of the pandemic does not and should not change legal frameworks or human rights approaches and shall by no means justify so called “triage procedures” explained Prof Gerard Quinn.
Josep Sole, director of “Support” in Spain affirmed “services have an important role of informing and acting to avoid that triage procedures are used as a pre-emptive measure denying de-facto access to health services. Increased knowledge and awareness must be a priority in order to better meet the challenges of emergency situations”.
“In periods of uncertainty given by changing and challenging contexts and heightened risks of acting in a context of legislative vacuum it should be mandatory to increase monitoring and involvement of persons with disabilities to adopt commonly agreed procedures” alleged Pat Clarke from the European Disability Forum.
The recent COVID-19-related events have regrettably contributed to expand the “black history” and the defects of the institutional model of care. Individuals’ rights and states’ obligations are crystallized under Article 19 of the UN CRPD, and now it’s time for policies to adequately fund programmes and services. Every stakeholder can contribute to make the story-ending a better one for all. As mentioned by the European Commission representative Emmanuelle Grange the European Union will continue the dialogue with civil society organisations to tackle the long-lasting effects of the crisis and will pave the way for urgent reforms of social care systems through policy instruments such as the European Semester and not least the new expected European Disability Strategy post 2020.
Jim Crowe, President of EASPD, concluded affirming that “this crisis must also be seen as a turning point to finally acknowledge that support services need an ecosystem to thrive and offer guidance, coordination and support in regular or emergency situations. Only this way can inclusive support provision in community-based living settings be accelerated and enacted”.