Women living with disabilities call for fair health care services

By Lungile Moyo

Women living with various disabilities have appealed for good and fair service delivery in the health sector, particularly in the maternity department.

Speaking during a United Nations meeting held during a National Disability Expo at the Bulawayo Small City Hall last week, women highlighted how especially the deaf and mute face discrimination, ill treatment and  isolation when they seek maternity attention at local public hospitals.

The dialogue was held to find out the challenges faced by persons living with disabilities and how best the UN can assist them.

Women with disabilities lamented that they are not well treated in hospitals and most health practitioners give them last preference in their services especially in maternity wards.

Speaking during the meeting, a deaf and mute woman who preferred to be called Sikhululekile narrated her story stating that when she was in labour she went to the hospital but failed to get assistance on time because no one could understand sign language. 

She said the nurses did not assist her as they gave first preference to women well able bodied women. As a result she was in labour for a long time.

Another woman named Kathrine who is also deaf mentioned that she  failed to get assistance in hospital when she was in labour until her husband arrived to explain to doctors that his wife was in labour.

“It took a long time for me to get help until my husband arrived and talked to them, when they eventually gave me attention they operated on me without my permission”, Kathrine said.

Kathrine went on to say that the operation did not go well as she bore twins but lost one of  them during the operation.  

“Even if I am deaf and dumb, doctors should communicate and ask me if l want to go through an operation, not to decide and come to a conclusion without my approval,” she added.

Speaking to a Amakhosikazi media, Nobukhosi Zulu who was present at the meeting said she has a child who is disabled and is pained by unfair treatment of persons with disabilities in the health sector.

“Service delivery to women with disabilities should be the same service delivery given to everyone else and nurses should stop discriminating the disabled as this will make them feel less important in society and this can in turn make their situations worse,” Zulu said.

She urged the government and society to look into the issue so that disabled women can acquire fair service delivery and that measures to stop discrimination should be taken to protect women with disabilities.

Zimbabwe’s constitution states that  the state and all its institutions and agencies of government at every level must recognise the rights of persons with physical or mental disabilities, in particular their right to be treated with respect and dignity. 

The constitution also states that the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must encourage the use and development of forms of communication suitable for persons with physical or mental disabilities.