Shellharbour Hospital access prioritised

A trip to hospital is daunting for most but for Shellharbour resident Alex Traill - and others with a disability - even getting in the front door can pose a problem.

Mr Traill, a representative for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, is one of a number of Illawarra and Shoalhaven residents with a disability who have shared their stories to help with a new plan to make the region's hospitals and healthcare services more accessible.

Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes launched the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) Disability Action Plan 2014-2017 at Dapto's Ribbonwood Centre this week.

For Mr Traill, who took part in the health district's access and navigation audit of its hospitals, the plan is a "great way forward".

"There's nothing worse than coming to hospital and you can't even get out of the car because there's not enough designated parking spaces of the right width," he said.

"If you do manage to find a park, you might then get stuck at the entrance because you're in a wheelchair and you physically can't open the door.

"So, as part of my inspection, I looked at things like parking, pathways, signage and entrances. I recommended additional parking spaces, more kerb ramps, better path maintenance and signage and auto-entry doors.

"Once people got into hospitals, then there was also a need for education so that nurses and other staff could understand each person's individual requirements."

ISLHD's diversity health co-ordinator Fiorina Mastroianni said the plan was developed with significant community consultation and input from other stakeholders, staff and services.

"The main aim of the plan is to provide more accessible, safer, better quality care for our patients with a disability and their families and carers, that's respectful and honest," she said.

"We did a lot of consultations and got lots of stories from our consumers and that informed our plan and gave us direction and we now have a set of really practical strategies we want to implement, or have already started."

Ms Mastroianni said over the next three years the plan would make hospital facilities and services physically accessible.

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