In partnership with New Directions, a group of Law Students from the University of Manitoba created a document that aims to improve access to healthcare for marginalized persons. Lewis Lee, Stefan Leicht, and Lauren Martin are law students at Robson Hall who worked together to create a document detailing the current state of access and rights regarding healthcare in Manitoba.
They were all given a list of pro bono projects and the Access to Healthcare project stood out for all of them. “Access to healthcare is something I’ve always been interested in because it’s so important, and it was great to realize being a law student and helping others could go hand in hand,” said Stefan. “Most of my family is in health care, so it’s always been an important area to me,” Lewis says. Lauren Martin was part of the University’s pandemic response team and has a passion for making a difference in the community. “I noticed some of the inequities in healthcare prior to starting law school during the pandemic, so this project was my top choice.”
During their research, the students noted the lack of awareness in resources offered by Manitoba Health, discovering many statutes and rules that they did not know existed, a good indication that many others were unaware of them as well. “People need to know that they have rights and that there are Acts and Regulations that exist to protect them,” Lauren explains.
Marginalized groups have difficulty accessing information regarding healthcare and documents that explain their rights and access. The concepts in these documents themselves aren’t difficult to understand, but the language being used can be hard to comprehend. The document the law students created is intended to be an easy to follow resource for everyone, detailing the resources and rights of Manitobans regarding health care. “Plain language is key to the concept of accessibility,” said Stefan. To make this document accessible, it needs to be readable by everyone, not just law practitioners and students.
“I feel safer after completing this project knowing that there are regulations and regulatory bodies in place to protect myself and others,” said Lauren. If an individual believes a healthcare provider is discriminating against them based on a protected characteristic, including refusing to accommodate them, they can contact the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”). The more people are aware of what they have access to and their rights, the more likely they can help improve the healthcare system. Everyone deserves access to proper healthcare, and thanks to this project, marginalized individuals have one more resource to help receive the proper information and access they need.