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Access Health Clock Announced

By Victor Schwartzman
July 21, 2014

Recently Accessibility News reposted an article by Michelle Diament about a 2013 study. 256 randomly selected medical practices in four major American cities were surveyed about access. The result? 22% could not accommodate a hypothetical patient who used a wheelchair and required assistance moving from the wheelchair to an examining table.

What reasons did 22% of medical practices provide for being inaccessible for that patient? There was no indication the patient was of unusual weight.

The problem was not that the offices themselves were inaccessible. Only 9 of the 256 medical practices were located in inaccessible buildings. Instead, the medical practices reported two reasons.

First, the lack of an exam table which could be adjusted. Second, the absence of a lift.

Gynecologists scored worst, over 40% being inaccessible. Not good news for women in wheel chairs requiring assistance. It can’t be easy even making an appointment if almost half of the gynecologists are not accessible. Given the stress the general poor access must cause people with disabilities and their families, it was no surprise the most accessible medical practitioners were psychiatrists.

We look to doctors to provide patient care and to lead the community in care issues. That such a high number of practices were not accessible is shocking. But put on your rubber shoes and gloves because more shocks follow!

The study was reported widely in March, 2013. Your columnist typed “inaccessible doctors’ offices” into Google to find out what has happened since. Then–perhaps ironically–I hit ‘enter.’

There were pages of hits. Because your columnist is tireless and dedicated, I went through six pages before I gave up. The articles were about the 2013 study initially but then went into hits from 2012 and 2010 and 2007 about other studies or situations involving lack of access to doctors’ offices.

I saw not a single hit about a reaction to the study from any doctor or medical association. Not one hit, since March, 2013.

A major study comes out in March, 2013 that probably 22% of medical practices in the United States are not accessible. Such a study of, say, the automotive industry would merit from the industry at least a response. “We are studying the study.” Or even “The study is crap.” But with this study, there was no response at all. No denial, no acceptance, no promise of an investigation and no record of any improvements. Doctors and their medical associations all publicly ignored the study.

This was shocking.

Shockingly good news!

Yes, in this age of rising concerns about lack of access, lack of informed consent and not lack of psychoactive medications, many issues erode at the confidence our doctors need to help their patients and be better community leaders. But here was a wonderful display of confidence. It is terrific to see this refusal by doctors to provide better access and be better community leaders. They are so confident they have not even pretended there is a problem to fix!

I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of confidence in my physician–if I can access one!

I was further reassured with the news that the American and Canadian Medical Associations have started a joint “Access Health Clock.” The Associations’ Clock has been designed by them as a countdown mechanism for improving access among medical practitioners. When the Access Health Clock reaches midnight, complete access will be achieved (Ontario is excluded.)

The Access Health Clock started digitally ticking this week. It began at 12:01 a.m. The Associations noted in their media release, “Normally such clocks start within minutes of midnight, and are a countdown to Doomsday.

The Access Health Clock instead begins at 12:01 a.m. as a show of our confidence in us improving our situation within our lifetime, although perhaps not within the lifetime of a person with disabilities who cannot get medical appointments. For everyone else we have started the clock at 12:01 a.m. to show we are nowhere close to disaster for most people.

“We also thought it would not hurt to start the clock early and give ourselves some extra time to crank up the committee process.”

Next: AODA II: The New Government’s Blockbuster Sequel: Promised Yet Again As A Column And, Ironically, Also Not Yet A Reality

Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satiric column to Accessibility News nothing in these columns is true except what they are about. His graphic novel (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also
contributes a monthly poetry review to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He
has had poetry and short fiction published, and has edited novels. His email is vschwartzman@gmail.com.