A research report, which investigated the access to health care for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (ID), has revealed that persons with ID continue to face discrimination and other deeply entrenched barriers when accessing health care.
It said persons with IDs experience social exclusion, which leads to gross discrimination, stigmatisation as well as the violation of their fundamental human rights and the basic conditions that allows them to live with dignity.
Mr Auberon Jeleel Odoom, National Coordinator of Inclusion Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, made this known when the organisation launched the 2013 report on the theme: “Access to Health Care for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in Ghana: Mapping the Issues and Reviewing the Evidence.”
The report came out of a study conducted in six districts of three selected regions-Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions with support from STAR-Ghana and funding from DFID, DANIDA, EU and USAID.
Mr Odoom noted that persons with ID in Ghana have been forgotten, voiceless, and invisible to mainstream healthcare services as well as health care professionals.
The report expressed concern about lack of training among health professionals and the severe shortage of specialist services making it difficult for persons with IDs to receive basic health care.
The report also highlighted exclusion of ID on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) list and estimated that less than 13 per cent of the population know that persons with ID are eligible for free NHIS registration.
He also said there are several forms of support that could be offered to such parents and their children to lessen their stress, feeling of social rejection, loneliness and state of hopelessness, and further facilitate the security of their future.
He said it is estimated that in Ghana two and three per cent of people have an ID, which is often characterised as persons having significantly below average intellectual functioning- generally regarded as an Intelligent Quota, IQ below 70 and a deficit in two or more adaptive areas such as learning, communication, social skills, self direction, self care and or work.
Mr Odoom said the organisation has formed support groups to provide parents and caregivers with an opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other on how to raise a child with such challenges and strategise on how to work together to improve upon their lives and that of their children.
The report captured the reason for attaching stigma to the persons with ID, which explained that their conditions was either caused by “juju” or the children are “spirit children” and are sent to various prayer camps to seek spiritual healing.
He called on stakeholders and government bodies to help urgently address the health needs of persons with ID, adding: “The current situation means that we are failing out international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, former Minister of Health and a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health commended Inclusion Ghana for the study and urged the body to engage stakeholders in the fight and also take advantage of the proposed revision of the Disability Act to include the concerns of persons with IDs.