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HFHR writes to Health Minister, alarmed by situation in A&E departments

♦ The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter to the Minister of Health addressing irregularities in hospital accident and emergency wards in the Silesia Province and referring to the consequent review of the Supreme Audit Office.

♦ The Foundation emphasised that the right to health care, itself stemming from the right to life, is one of the key responsibilities of the state.

Fatalities at A&E departments in Sosnowiec, Wodzisław Śląski and Dąbrowa Górnicza

In recent months, the media have reported on many dangerous incidents in hospital emergency and casualty departments located in the Silesia region.

According to media accounts, in March 2019, a 39-year-old patient presenting with symptoms of deep vein thrombosis arrived in a hospital in Sosnowiec. During the 9 hours the man spent in the hospital’s A&E department, he underwent certain tests and was seen by a doctor but received no actual treatment for his acute condition. According to information published online, the man died because he was not given adequate and timely medical assistance.

In the same month, a similar incident occurred in Wodzisław Śląski. According to a patient’s family, the man complaining of chest pain did not undergo any tests for 10 hours. Later, the decision was made to transfer the patient to another hospital. However, after he was moved to another facility, it turned out that he could not be admitted due to the lack of beds. The man died at about 2 a.m. in a hospital in Racibórz because of a massive myocardial infarction. The family believes that he would be alive if the right treatment had been given on time.

According to media reports, in March 2019 a worrying situation also occurred at an emergency department in Dąbrowa Górnicza. A young woman passed out in the hallway of the emergency room. According to press reports, a paramedic observing the event has moved away and other waiting patients helped the woman.

Supreme Audit Office to perform a review

On 4 August 2019, the Supreme Audit Office informed that it would perform an ad-hoc review of the operations of the A&E departments in Silesia region. In response to these and other media reports, the HFHR has intervened with the Minister of Health.

In its letter sent to the Minister, the HFHR has requested information on any inspections performed at accident and emergency departments in hospitals throughout Poland. The Foundation has also asked whether the Ministry was planning to take action to improve the situation at the A&E wards.

Representatives of the HFHR recall that the right to health care is connected to the right to life, directly expressed in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Foundation referred in the letter to the case law of the ECtHR, which, in the case of Aydogdu v. Turkey, stated that the state is liable for a breach of Article 2 ECHR where systemic or structural deficiencies in the organisation of hospital care result in patients being deprived of access to emergency medical procedures and the authorities fail to take the necessary measures to prevent such deficiencies.

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