Perceptions of primary healthcare services among people with physical disabilities - part 1: access issues.
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BACKGROUND: Access to primary healthcare among people with physical disabilities has been a neglected research area in Canada. The authors sought to examine the extent of access to and satisfaction with primary healthcare services for people with physical disabilities living in Canada's largest metropolitan area -- the Toronto region. METHODS: An anonymous self-report questionnaire regarding access to and perceived quality of primary healthcare was mailed to a convenience sample of 1026 members of several disability organizations as well as persons discharged from a rehabilitation hospital within the past 2 years. For the 201 returned surveys (response rate = 20%), the authors evaluated the perceived extent of access to primary healthcare services as well as the level of satisfaction with the quality of these services. RESULTS: Among the respondents to the questionnaire, 17.4% reported having difficulty obtaining a family doctor's services and 8.0% reported having been refused medical treatment by a family doctor because of their disability. Respondents also reported difficulty in physically accessing their family doctor's office (32.3%), equipment (38.3%), and washroom (22.9%). Although 82.1% of respondents claimed they were very or somewhat satisfied with their family doctor's services, 19.4% felt they were receiving inadequate primary healthcare and 21.9% felt that their disability prevented them from receiving appropriate primary healthcare. DISCUSSION: Although people who experienced more difficulties may have been more likely to respond to this survey, a significant proportion of people with physical disabilities feel they are experiencing difficulty accessing adequate and appropriate primary healthcare services. Possible solutions to some of the identified access barriers and areas where further research may be required are described.
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