Improved Access for Disabled People Improves Accessibility to Primary Health Services in Wellington
International Day of Persons with Disabilities gave the Tū Ora Compass Health and practices time to reflect on the improvements to access to primary care for those with disabilities across the network. Celebrated on 3 December, the theme for 2023 was ‘Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world’.
One practice within the Tū Ora network that has been working hard over the past 18 months to improve access is Newtown Medical Centre, which serves a population of around 10,000 patients in the Newtown area. The practice has been making changes to its facilities, building, signage and communications to improve access for its patients.
Business Manager Michelle Curel said that accessibility for patients has been a key focus for the practice, and she is proud of the work they have done to date.
We have spent time working with different organisations, and knew we had to make changes to our facility to ensure our tāngata whaikaha (disability) patients could access the facility. Newtown Medical Centre actively seeks feedback from some of our tāngata whaikaha who use the facility and encourage them to flag any concerns or ideas on how we can make our practice more accessible.
To date, we’ve implemented substantial upgrades at the main entrance by installing modern automatic sliding doors to replace the outdated ones. Additionally, we have wheelchair accessible spots for our self-check in kiosk, reception area and the onsite pharmacy. Our efforts extend to enhancing accessibility through the incorporation of inclusive signage, including braille to assist individuals with visual impairments. Our waiting rooms and clinic rooms are well laid out to ensure ease of access, and our lift facilitates patients’ transportation to the first floor.
“Serving a population of 10,000 patients, we have many patients with various disabilities, and we want to ensure our practice is as accessible as possible. Our next steps are to revamp our website and complete our new signage”.
Diversity and Inclusion have been a key focus for Tū Ora, especially since the launch of the Diversity and Inclusion strategy in 2021 which looked to make Tū Ora a more accessible workplace, as well as support our practices. Part of that strategy saw the creation of a Senior Disability Advisor role within the organisation, currently with Anna Reed at the helm to help guide the organisation and practices through improvements for disability access.
“My role is the lead on anything related to disability – ensuring we all understand what disability is across the organisation and advocating for tāngata whaikaha in all areas including education, disability policy and supporting our practices” says Ms Reed.
“As a disabled person / tāngata whaikaha / tangata whai ora myself, I have experienced many of the inequities that exist for our people. I want to change that for our services to be accessible, inclusive and equitable. I believe we need lots of disabled people in leadership positions”.
Over the past 18 months, Anna has delivered in-house education sessions and has been working on strategies for inclusivity which have been greatly received.
“I really feel like I get to make a difference in the lives of tāngata whaikaha, and I’m excited to see what more we can do in the future!” she concluded.