Hospital building in Latvia found to pose potential health risks

The Ombudsman has identified significant shortcomings in the Ādaži municipal hospital's accessibility for people with disabilities, including even certain elements that potentially pose risks to human health, the Ombudsman's office said on May 22.

The existing regulatory framework provides for two types of medical treatment establishments – accessible and inaccessible. Accessibility to medical treatment institutions shall be checked by the Health Inspectorate.

In the specific case of the Ādaži hospital, an elderly woman with mobility issues tried to use a service at the hospital. Her experience was less than satisfactory because of the inaccessible environment.

The Ombudsman's Office pointed out that the hospital has spent financial resources on building accessibility elements, but virtually none of them can be used alone, they are uncomfortable and complicated. Ironically but tragically, some pose serious injury risks to people who use them.

"For example, a person with reduced mobility can only enter a building with the help of others, because the ramps are too steep, while all the second-floor ramps are so steep that they must not be used even with the support of another person.

"There are no accessibility elements in the building for people with visual and hearing disabilities. Information on access to services is not clear and needs to be supplemented, and the information is on the hospital's website, which is not established in an accessible format and language so that it can be identified by programs used by people with visual disabilities. The Health Inspectorate has not seen problems in this situation," said the Ombudsman's Office.

The Ombudsman stated that the fact that the hospital has spent financial resources on accessibility elements does not mean that the institution is accessible.

"We concluded that the environment was only formally provided and by nature did not contribute to the inclusion of people with disabilities in society. [..] The Health Inspectorate recognized this environment as appropriate. There is a serious concern that the number of inaccessible medical establishments is much higher than reported officially. Accessibility must be assessed from the recipient's point of view," said the Ombudsman Juris Jansons.

The Ombudsman has advised the hospital to remove from its home page the false information regarding the accessibility of the environment in the building and to review the situation.

Considering that the formal treatment of the Health Inspectorate in the assessment of the environment accessibility is systemic, the Ombudsman recommended that the Ministry of Health carry out an independent environmental accessibility audit in the medical treatment institutions which the Health Inspectorate has recognized as accessible, the Ombudsman's office said.

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