Gaétan Barrette vows to make mammograms accessible to women in wheelchairs

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says it's unethical for 16 clinics ruled as inaccessible to deny mammograms to women in wheelchairs.

16 clinics identified as unable to accommodate women in wheelchairs seeking mammograms

Linda Gauthier filed a human rights complaint after she was told by several clinics that they could not perform mammograms on women in wheelchairs. (CBC)

A meeting with Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette has offered some hope, advocates for women with physical disabilities said Friday.

Barrette said he would change the rules to say that any clinic refusing service to people with disabilities would have their permits revoked, and that new clinics that aren’t accessible won’t be given permits at all.

Barrette told CBC News it was unethical for doctors not to treat people with disabilities, and that he would personally visit each of the 16 Quebec clinics that RAPLIQ, an activist group that fights for inclusion of people with disabilities, has identified as refusing to give mammograms to women in wheelchairs.

“I checked it out," Barrette said. "There are no provisions regarding disability inaccessibility in those clinics. And there will be in the very near future provisions because this is absolutely unacceptable.”

Sixteen clinics in Quebec were identified by RAPLIQ as refusing mammograms to women in wheelchairs. The most cited reasons included technicians not knowing how to lower the machines or not having the space to accommodate wheelchairs. (CBC)

The decision comes after Linda Gauthier, a Montreal woman in a wheelchair who said she was refused a mammogram by several clinics, told the CBC about her story.

On Thursday, CBC News reporter Kate McKenna spoke with Gauthier, who filed a human-rights complaint after the last time she tried to get a mammogram.

“I felt, you know, very discriminated and humiliated,” Gauthier said.

Inaccessible mammogram machines

She said she called a handful of clinics and got the same response: They don’t serve women in wheelchairs either due to space constraints or technicians lacking the knowldedge to lower the mammogram machine. Some clinics were not accessible by wheelchair.

“We have to stand up and many of us cannot, so it’s a big problem, because we give up at one point, you know. We don’t have any mammograms anymore,” said Gauthier, the president of RAPLIQ.

Misdiagnosed cervical cancer

Isabelle Ducharme said a uterine tumour the size of a grapefruit was discovered more than a year after she was misdiagnosed with a bladder infection.

There will be in the very near future provisions because this is absolutely unacceptable.- Gaétan Barrette, Quebec health minister

Ducharme said she initially went to the clinic with pain in her torso. As a paraplegic, she could not feel distinct pain — just a general discomfort.

She went to a gynecologist when the pain persisted and was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

If it wasn't for my disability, this could probably have been detected earlier and I would've not gone through all the stress that came after the diagnosis,” Ducharme said.


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