In the civilized world that we work so much to build, equality, in all its forms, should not be a matter of concern. However, disputes will always arise, as this issue is one of great complexity and being able to discuss on this matter requires empathy and also knowledge of the human rights, ethics and the law.
The subject of human rights has been and will be, for a long time, a disputed one. People have been fighting for their rights ever since they have developed consciousness and, in many cases, their voices have not been heard. One powerful example is the Second World War, in which millions of lives have been taken due to ignorance, fear and desire for power. Consequently, on the 10th of December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It was a wake-up call from the competent and cry for help from the disadvantaged. The great powers of the world recognized its importance and embraced it. It has become letter of the law and many injustices have been avoided thanks to the Declaration. However, the ultimate step towards complete justice and respect has not been taken and many people are still deprived of their fundamental rights. There are still many areas to be improved and we should be working tirelessly toward raising awareness on the injustice brought to the people.
In this article, we want to focus on the fundamentals of a equitable health care and why everyone should have equal access to it. As healthcare professionals, we should be aware that taking care of the patient means respecting their rights and opinions as much as giving them the right medical treatment. Unfortunately, the medical system is a complex machine and one doctor cannot fight the foulness that the patient can face. However, doctors and patients, together, can bring these flaws to light, thus having a better chance at changing them.
“What are the components of equal health care in means of human rights standards?”
For us to advocate equal healthcare, it is essential to know the fundamentals of an accepted health care regarding to human rights. Hospitals, doctors and medicines must be accessible, available, acceptable, and of good quality for everyone whenever and wherever they are needed. Health care must be affordable and comprehensive for everyone, and physically accessible where and when needed. The health care system in the world should be guided by the human rights standards. Everyone must have access to equal comprehensive health care. Access to health care must be universal and equitably guaranteed for everyone.
Health care infrastructure which includes hospitals, community health facilities, health care professionals, equipment must be available in all geographical areas and to all communities. Availability is especially important for having adequate health care services such as primary care and mental health facilities. It is very important because the distance a patient has to travel for a healthcare service also directly affects the actual use of these health services, since it causes loss of time and effort. For this reason, the access to primary care must be improved worldwide to promote healthcare.
Moreover, all health care institutions must respect dignity, provide culturally appropriate care and respect medical ethics to protect confidentiality. To ensure an acceptable health care, health care providers should be responsive to specific needs of the patients based on gender, age, language, culture and abilities. It is crucial for health care services to be acceptable for people who have certain disabilities. They all must be improved by having necessary equipments and competent staff to take care of people with disabilities’ special needs. If health care services can become more accessible, all disabled people would become independent participants in their own health issues and be actively involved in the healthcare system.
Another standard for all health care facilities is to have a patient centered manner and a medically good quality, which must be guided by certain control mechanisms. The quality of health care services must be enhanced and they must be ensured to be sufficient for all the patients. For independent monitoring, public and private agencies must be involved in the system to protect the health care quality, through enforcing practicable standards and other regulations.
By knowing the necessary factors to have a proper health care system, we can see that there are numerous faults in the current medical system, that prevent many citizens from having equal access to healthcare.
One of the differentiating factors is demographics. It is well known that people living in rural areas experience more difficulty in getting all kinds of materials and services. Healthcare should not be the case. While even in small towns there are several hospitals and medical offices, in many villages there is barely one medical professional. This, and the fact that there are more people with health problems in the rural district, indicates a serious problem. One big issue is that there is not enough communication between medical centers. People should be provided fast and easy means of transportation in times of need, as well as easy access to medication.
Another example of unequal access to healthcare is the difference in salaries. It is foreseeable that those with higher income will pay for a better quality of their medical care, but it is improper for the underprivileged to lack any medical assistance whatsoever. There are still countries that neglect their citizens’ salaries when constructing their healthcare system. The result is people not being able to afford basic medical care, thus resorting to self-medication or simply overlooking their problem.
Sometimes, unequal access means the population’s preconception of medical staff and even a doctor’s choice not to treat a patient due to subjective reasons. Whilst this is sad to think about, it is still a current problem and we must confront it. It is difficult to rectify someone’s perception of the world, but the road we are willing to take is a long and arduous one.
What should we do in order to get closer to making equal access to healthcare feasible?
A first step would be taking a look at the best healthcare systems and acknowledging their strong points. Every government should invest more time and resources in improving the way that the doctors are trained and the patients are treated. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money as much as investing them well.
Healthcare coverages must be expanded to more people and financial assistance must be given to people with lower income. Individuals from different economical classes with equal need for healthcare services should have equal opportunity to get their treatments.
Also, the most important undertaking is raising awareness towards the disadvantaged people that do not benefit from the medical assistance they are entitled to. It is discouraging to think about those who need help but don’t receive it because of the poorly thought structure of the medical system.
Knowing that inhibiting equal access to health services is a violation of “right to health”, we all must contribute to form foundations for a just healthcare system, which contributes individuals’ abilities to attain the best possible health status for themselves and their families. If everyone can be conscious of the importance of human rights and resonates with those that are mistreated, a change is bound to happen.
We, as medical students, are compelled to recognize the flaws that many people face and advocate for the discriminated. Even one good deed means more than we can imagine. Even if this doesn’t make a change in the grand scheme of things, it might mean so much to the person it is directed to. We must adjust our habits, be the first ones to make a change and encourage others to act likewise.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “No man is above the law, and no man is below it.” Today is an important day in history. Today we are reminded that we are equal in front of God and the law. Every day, we should remind ourselves that everyone has fears, everyone faces problems and that it is in our nature to help each other in times of need.