Thursday March 21, 2013
Malaysia needs more user-friendly hospitals
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
SYABAS to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for calling for world standard user-friendly facilities for hospitals in the country during his recent visit to Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL). The PM was there to launch HKL’s specialist clinic and ambulatory care centre.
“We must make this hospital user-friendly in all aspects,” he was quoted in news reports. The PM stressed that improvements must start in the hospitals’ carparks. No one would have appreciated the PM’s concerns more than persons with disabilities and the elderly, especially wheelchair-users and those with walking difficulties. For them, getting into a hospital building can be quite a torturous affair. Here are some suggestions on how hospitals can be disabled-friendly:
> Make sure you have enough of them as more disabled drivers are likely to be found in such places than elsewhere.
> Place them directly next to hospital entrances. (The hospital director or some other hotshot usually gets the best spot.) Disabled patients should not be forced to perform Olympic stunts just to get into the hospital. Disabled-friendly carparks should never be in places where patients have to cross the road. We may end up in the emergency ward instead as semi-paralysed legs and weak hands can suddenly freeze in the face of oncoming traffic.
> Carparks, especially when they are limited, should be strictly reserved for wheelchair-users and those with walking difficulties. The blind, deaf and learning-disabled can disembark at regular parking lots with their helpers.
> Carparks should come with a shelter as disabled people take time to get in and out of their cars. A covered carpark will protect them from the elements.
> Prompt action should be taken when carparks for the disabled are abused. A fine of RM100 or more should be imposed. The money collected can be donated to a charity of the hospital’s choice as part of their corporate social responsibility programme.
> Wheelchairs should be easily available near carparks for patients who need them. Ideally, they should be the type where certain parts can be dismantled to meet the needs of each user. The wheelchairs should be regularly maintained and dilapidated ones replaced.
Training for hospital helpers
No amount of good facilities can be truly effective if the people who are offering them are not up to the mark. Here are some pointers that can make a difference:
> Parking attendants, security guards and hospital assistants should always provide service courteously and with a smile. They should never bring their problems to work. Persons who are ill, with disabilities or the elderly need positive reinforcements in their lives. It goes a long way to help them stay on top of their daily struggles. There have been many instances where “helpers” at carparks have been grumpy, rude and even refused to help unload wheelchairs from the boot. Some pretend not to look at disabled drivers who are looking for assistance.
> Frontline staff should be given basic training on disability. They should have a working understanding of what disability and illness is all about, and how these affect people. For example, not everyone who uses a wheelchair is unable to walk and not everyone who is paralysed is unable to feel pain. They should be taught how to lift a person if necessary, handle wheelchairs, etc.
> Every hospital should treat their frontline staff with the highest respect and appreciation. After all, they are the ones who convey to each visitor how the rest of their experiences will be like. There are many patients who may forget their doctors but not the front-door staff who have helped them from the moment they arrive until they leave the hospital.