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Human rights abuses in private care facilities

In April 2016 the HFHR has intervened in four cases and stated that private care facilities for persons with a disability, a chronic illness or elderly persons must be must be subjected to an effective public oversight.

“We have called for the reinforcement of the control on the private care facilities after alarming media reports and complaints sent to the Foundation on the functioning of these facilities”, said Marcin Szwed, a lawyer of the HFHR.

First of the interventions of the HFHR concerns placement of an elderly woman in a nursing home in the Mazowieckie Province in circumstances which are unclear. The facility was probably functioning without the proper permission issued by the Province Governor, which meant that it could operate outside the law and was not controlled by appropriate state authorities.

“This is all the more alarming because according to our information persons admitted to the facility were being placed there with the violation of the current procedures, they were involuntarily administered medication and their contact with the outside world was limited”, said Marcin Szwed. The HFHR called on the Province Governor to immediately perform control actions with regard to this facility. Moreover, the Foundation presented standards of protection of rights of persons with disabilities. These standards must be taken into consideration when evaluating the activity of the facility.

After the emission of the TVN’s “UWAGA” programme the Foundation intervened two more times. The program described abuses against patients which were allegedly committed by the employees of the Alzheimer’s care facility in Trzcianka. In statements to the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy and the Mazowieckie Province Governor the HFHR noted that private care facilities for persons with a disability, a chronic illness or elderly persons must be covered by an effective public oversight.

“In our statements we presented among others the Polish and international standards of using direct coercive measures against patients of psychiatric institutions and we highlighted the fact that both the Polish Constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights imposes an obligation on the public authorities to protect persons who are staying in such private facilities against violations of human rights”, explained Marcin Szwed.

In our last intervention we turned to the Commissioner for Human Rights and Director of the National Prevention Mechanism. The HFHR has called on the National Prevention Mechanism to include the private care facilities in the program of inspections.

“In our opinion, the National Prevention Mechanism is authorised to conduct controls not only in public facilities but also private establishments. That is because persons staying in care facilities against their will, for example fully incapacitated persons, may also be staying in the latter type of facilities”, said Katarzyna Wiśniewska, HFHR’s lawyer.

According to the HFHR, priority should be given to inspections targeting private facilities as there is no effective public oversight over their activities.

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