People have equal access to services in the coronavirus situation - everyone has access to the help and care they need
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health emphasises that, even under emergency conditions, mu-nicipalities must ensure social welfare and healthcare clients’ right to have access to services based on their individual needs. The right applies to all groups of people equally, including people with disabilities. The same principle applies to intensive care.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health draws attention to the ethical guidelines published by Suomen Tehohoitoyhdistys (Finnish society of intensive care) in 2019.
According to the guidelines, every person, whose life is temporarily in danger, has equal right to an assessment of the need for intensive care.
Mental health problems, substance addiction, memory disorders or disabilities must not prevent access to the intensive care needs assessment and its possible benefits.
Under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the signatories to the Convention, Finland included, must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk.
The emergency conditions caused by coronavirus fall within the scope of the situations of risk as defined in the Convention. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health cooperates with the Finnish Disability Forum to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities during the corona-virus situation.
Persons with disabilities are not excluded from intensive care
The instructions published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on 20 March, list ways of urgently increasing the capacity of emergency medical services, 24-hour healthcare services and intensive care. The measures include reducing non-urgent healthcare, providing further training for nurses and cancelling holidays.
Based on the guidelines, the most critical intensive care must be targeted at those who are likely to benefit the most from it.
This does not, however, mean that some groups of people would be excluded from intensive care. Such a restriction is not included in any guidelines of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Decisions on intensive care are always made by the attending physician based on an individual assessment of each situation.
Disability or functional restriction does not automatically mean that a person makes part of a risk group. But, as any other persons, persons with disabilities may have serious underlying conditions that significantly increase the risk of getting a serious coronavirus infection.
A number of persons with disabilities are in a particularly vulnerable position during the ongoing emergency conditions. The Ministry underlines that, during the emergency conditions, particular attention must be attached to the implementation of the rights of persons in vulnerable positions and in need of special support.
During the coronavirus emergency conditions, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health guides the organisers and providers of social and healthcare services in close cooperation with the hospital districts and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.
Guidelines of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for the prevention of coronavirus are available at the Ministry’s website at www.stm.fi.
Riitta Burrell, Ministerial Adviser, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Dis-abilities (VANE), [email protected]