Health care access in times of COVID-19: the experiences of refugees in Lisbon
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Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Nova University of Lisbon, Portugal
Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto, Portugal
Global Health and Tropical Medicine, Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Nova University of Lisbon, Portugal
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1400
Background and Objective: To address the health needs of refugees it is essential that health services are culturally competent and facilitate the access of this population to health care, especially in a context prone to the amplification of social inequities as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, no studies exist in Portugal exploring refugees’ access to health during COVID-19 pandemic. The Objective of this study is to describe socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of refugees living in Lisbon and to identify their health care patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A cross sectional descriptive study was conducted from May to November 2022. A 38-item questionnaire was applied to 36 refugees living in Lisbon through face-to-face interviews. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize sociodemographic and healthcare access profile during COVID-19. Results: The majority of participants were male (56%), with a mean age of 35 years, 72% were married, most had at least a secondary education (69%), but more than half were unemployed; the respondents came from seven countries and all had been integrated in the Refugee Reception Program; the median length of stay was 17 months. All were registered in a primary care center and during the pandemic, 94% used healthcare services. The majority tested negative for the coronavirus (58%), one was admitted to hospital due to severe COVID-19; most participants were compliant with preventive measures and 97% received COVID-19 vaccination; 69% had an incomplete schedule. More than half didn’t seek health care because of structural and cultural barriers and most had difficulty getting medical advice by phone or email (57.7%) during the pandemic. Conclusions: This is the first study exploring health care access among refugees in Portugal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Identified population characteristics and barriers signal the need to devise strategies necessary to the improvement of access to health care.
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