Conference: Barriers in Access to Medical Care in Poland
On March 28, a conference about the barriers in access to medical care for refugees was held in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
The conference was held as a part of Project “Educational Campaign to Improve Health and Medical Care for People Applying for Refugee Status” which has been run by the International Organization for Migration, the Office for Foreigners and co-financed by the European Refugee Fund since 2009.
Rafał Rogala, head of the Office for Foreigners, reported that 90% of people who applied for refugee status in Poland are from Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. He stressed that refugees have the same rights on health care: they may access basic health care, hospital care, and prenatal care. However, Rogala pointed out that the main problems of access to health care are communication between the doctor and foreign patient, cultural differences, and religion.
Adam Tołkacz, an employee of the Office for Foreigners, said that their facilities hold around 3,500 people who have applied for refugee status
“Our purpose is to inform applicants about the Polish health care system, but also to build awareness of the cultural differences in the medical staff,” said Anna Rostocka, director of the Office of the International Organization for Migration (Międzynarodowej Organizacji ds. Migracji – IOM) in Warsaw.
She added that many Muslim refugee women only go to female doctors. “It’s an important issue that doctors need to be aware of,” emphasized Rostocka.
“In Chechnya, antibiotics are readily available without prescription. Therefore, when Chechens go to the doctor with the flu for example, they expect that they will be assigned antibiotics. If they do not get them, I get some kind of loss of trust: are you sure treated me well, or whether the doctor knows what she’s doing?” said Beata Szymczyk-Hałas, a doctor.
Satsita Khumaidova, who has participated in the program as a refugee, said that the fundamental problem on accessing medical care is the language barrier. “Foreigners have to communicate somehow, talk about the symptoms of the disease, make an appointment to visit, and stand in line at the doctor’s office. There are always misunderstandings,” she added.
As a result of the conference, the participants agreed that language, culture, and religion constitute a barrier to foreigners in access to medical care in Poland.
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco