Public sector rehabilitation services for physical disabilities in tertiary care hospitals of Karachi, Pakistan: A qualitative study

Document Type



Emergency Medicine; Paediatrics and Child Health; Community Health Sciences


Background: Around the globe there are 2.4 billion people in need of rehabilitation. Disability and rehabilitation have not gained much importance in the public health arena, possibly due to limited research and awareness regarding the significance of rehabilitation. This study aimed to provide an in-depth understanding of the barriers and facilitators to the provision and utilization of rehabilitation services in public sector tertiary care hospitals of Karachi, Pakistan.
Methodology: This qualitative exploratory study was conducted from August to September 2015 in two tertiary care hospitals of Karachi. The criterion for hospital selection included the availability of functional rehabilitation services. Twenty-four key informant interviews were conducted with health professionals, including doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, prosthetists, orthotists, as well as patients and caregivers. Qualitative content analysis was performed using a consensual qualitative research approach. Responses from key informant interviews were coded into free nodes and then categorized into themes.
Results: Two themes emerged from the data: constraints to the provision of rehabilitation services, and barriers to the utilization of rehabilitation services. Basic infrastructure was available at both study sites; however, a lack of structured guidelines for referring patients to these services, a lack of information-sharing and guidance to the patients, and a limited supply of equipment (treatment modalities) hampered the provision of services. The barriers to rehabilitation services included cost pertaining to transport, environmental barriers, lack of support from the employer, and strain on and lack of support from caregivers.
Conclusion: Rehabilitation services require attention and investment in research and allocation of funds to strengthen the service delivery system. Hospitals, alongside the department of health, need to develop a strategic plan to set future directions and standards of available rehabilitation services.


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