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Pain management in Poland – will proposed changes be effective?

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter to the Ministry of Health, addressing the issue of pain management in Poland. The HFHR asks what are the Ministry’s plans to ensure that the proposed legislative changes are effective and, in particular, whether the new pain management policy secures additional funds for new and existing pain management clinics.

The HFHR welcomed the announcement of an amendment to the Patient Rights and Ombudsman for Patient Rights Act, which is to introduce Article 20a, the provision designed to guarantee that all patients are entitled to receive pain management services and treatments, regardless the source of pain. The article also obliges a health care services provider (usually a hospital) to determine the degree of pain severity, manage pain and monitor the effectiveness of a therapy.

These proposed changes to the Act are in line with the Foundation’s own proposals for amending existing laws. In the current system, only terminal patients have direct access to pain management and palliative services. The Ministry’s proposals also respond to the HFHR’s appeals for the adoption of a quality control system of pain management. In letters sent to the Ministry of Health, the Foundation have reiterated that a failure to implement an effective framework for pain management services means that the state is unable to discharge its legal duty to protect citizens’ right to health care, enshrined in art. 68 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. This may also mean that the state fails to perform the obligations imposed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and, in particular, those enshrined in Convention Article 3, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

“At the same time, we are concerned about the amendment sponsors’ declaration that the provision of access to pain management services to all patients will not generate additional burden on the state’s budget. This is a conclusion of the Legislative Impact Assessment document appended to the legislative proposal. We fear that if the amendment to the Act is not accompanied by additional funding, the problem of ineffective pain management in Poland will not be resolved”, says Zuzanna Warso, a member of the HFHR legal team.

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