Months-long wait for disability aids in Latvia

The number of people needing technical aids for health reasons is growing year by year, but the state-paid service is sluggish. A viewer of Latvian Television' 4. studija turned to the broadcast with her issue – her mother suffered a stroke and had to wait three months for the equipment, 4. studija reported February 25.

Vija Miška, a viewer of the LTV program 4. studija , said that her mother had been discharged from Jēkabpils hospital on November 10 last year and received a medical opinion on the need for a rollator walker.

“She needs a rollator because she can't move herself. And then I realized that we needed it right then and right away,” Vija explained.

However, “right then and right away” no aid was provided. At the beginning, an application to the Vaivari Technical Aid Center should be written regarding the necessity thereof. It was sent by the family via post in a registered letter, indicating also the most convenient place to receive the rollator – Rīga. 19 days later, she received a response that her mom had been admitted to the queue.

Realizing that it could take longer, Vija decided to take care of her mom's much-needed mobility aid herself. It was found in one of Madona Municipality's Social Service departments after a hard search. 

“I mean, I wonder how long we're going to wait for this one, granted by the state? We received a letter, January 30. Again, the letter is addressed to the patient herself, who is 89, and the hospital statement makes it crystal clear that she cannot understand or turn up for it. But there's an offer to come to Rēzekne and get the equipment. Although the application spelled out who was receiving it and where - a very different place. And then there was the call again,” said Vija.

In the end, person who needed the aid on November 10 only received it on February 9, after three months of waiting.

Ivars Balodis, Board Member of the Association of disabled people and their friends “Apeirons”, said: “Three months, this is absolutely unacceptable. It should be a day, two, a maximum of three, because you have to go to the toilet every day, you need to eat every day, you need to get up every day, several times a day even. And it is necessary immediately.”

Statistics from the Vaivari Technical Aid Center show that 20,682 applications for technical aid were received last year. They wereprovided to 19,877 claimants. 

“For the given moment, it is possible to apply for 225 technical aids for State budget resources. And their waiting times vary -- about one month to several months depending on the length of this queue or the presence of available aids on the ground at the center,” noted Vita Deičmane, deputy head of the Vaivars Center for Technical aids.

She added that in some cases, the waiting time for an aid may exceed a year, but these are quite rare cases.

The center explained that children, and persons with first-time disabilities or acute functional restrictions, such as after a stroke or injury, can receive aid as a matter of urgency.

Urgency means at least one month because that is exactly how long the law lays down for examining a person's application.

“We provide aids according to the groups set out in the Social Services, Social Assistance Act. Persons who would need to use the aids after the hospital cannot be provided immediately after the hospital. The state itself has already marked it as a problem that cannot be solved within the framework of the existing order,” Deičmane said.

Meanwhile, the Apeirons board member revealed that people often complained that there were no understandable documents they had to fill out. “Perhaps things are clear and understandable for the people who work in that industry, but for someone from the sidelines who has been in distress, there is no clarity of it,” Balodis noted.

Balodis also stressed that State-guaranteed support should be provided as close as possible to a person's place of residence: “It could be either a family doctor who should be on the course of what's available, what types of support, or a social worker looking on the social side at what types of support might be available in your case.”

The Ministry of Welfare agreed that a more high-quality and efficient operation of the Vaivars Technical Aid Center requires changes, and the service needs to be much more accessible to the person. The Ministry of Welfare sees a solution – to cooperate with the Ministry of Health, giving it some of the budget allocated by the state so that technical aids reach people faster, not in the order of the queues so far. However, no practical implementation of the ideas is yet to be seen.

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