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Health care facilities may fail to accommodate individuals with spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is an irreversible, debilitating injury that can cause lifelong complications, including immobility, chronic pain, weakness, breathing problems, and heart problems. Unfortunately, many individuals with SCI are unable to access the services and supports they need to manage the condition. To ensure that all patients receive the highest standard of care, health care providers are interested to understand the obstacles faced by people with SCI who seek services for their injury-related health complications.

A team of researchers recently conducted a study of barriers and facilitators to care among SCI patients living in the greater Gaborone area, Botswana. Importantly, the researchers noted that many patients in Africa walk long distances over inhospitable terrain to obtain health care, presenting significant challenges to mobility-impaired individuals. To address these concerns, they collected data from 57 adult patients who sustained SCI, finding that:

  • Most (63%) of the participants were satisfied with clinical services, and they reported a better experience when they experienced respect, preferential treatment, short wait times, and convenient hours.
  • About 70% of patients indicated that their clinician had insufficient knowledge of SCI. More than 80% reported that clinical facilities had a shortage of medications and consumable medical supplies (such as gloves and bandages).
  • Many patients were unable to access care as a result of structural deficiencies. About half could not enter the facility or use the facility’s restrooms without assistance, and they often reported that examination chairs did not accommodate wheelchair height.

Although many SCI patients have significant health care needs, clinical facilities may fail to accommodate them. There remains an urgent need to guarantee that services and supports for people with SCI are available, accessible, and affordable.

Paulus-Mokgachane MM, Visagie SJ, & Mji G. Access to primary care for persons with spinal cord injury in the greater Gaborone area, Botswana. African Journal of Disability. (September 2019).


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