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27.08.2010

Violations of Human Rights in Ukraine’s psychiatric homes

   

Residents of psychiatric homes in Ukraine systematically suffer violations of their rights, members of the Committee for Fighting Organized Crime and Corruption say. This involves beating, forced labour, the use of prohibited medication. Criminal proceedings were recently initiated over the fatal beating of a resident of an Odessa institution, and this is not the first such case.

According to Tetyana Yablonska from the Ukrainian-American Human Rights Bureau, the Ukrainian psychiatric system remains punitive as in Soviet times. People continue being injected with prohibited medication. There are also people who could cope outside special institutions.

Oleksandr Kosaryev, Head of the Committee for Fighting Organized Crime and Corruption says that the death of a patient in the Novosavytsky Psychiatric Home would have gone undiscovered had it not been for a phone call from another resident.

“When we got there, the first person we met was the Director of the institution. We asked to be shown the body of the person killed. The Director said there had been no murder, that there’d simply been a fight. At first we thought we’d received misinformation, but then we spoke with other patients and understood that they were hiding something. I asked the duty doctor directly why the body was already buried, why they had not carried out an examination. He just froze”, Oleksy Kosaryev recounts.

The management of the institution rejects any accusations. Doctor Georgy Tkachuk asserts that he didn’t even know that he should report such a case to the police. “Now young doctors know already that after such a beating they need to inform the police”.

Two criminal investigations have been initiated – over the beating which led to the person’s death, and the concealment of a crime. However Kosaryev says that such a death is a flagrant case, but that hard labour and beatings are commonplace in such institutions. “They’re taken out into the field. They shouldn’t be working at all. The State pays them a pension. Patients are beaten, injected with prohibited medication, kept like animals”, he says.

Deputy Head of the Committee, Oleksandr Hladky adds that in one ward of the Novosavytsky Psychiatric Home there can be up to 30 people, sleeping on paper-thin mattresses.

The home has its own livestock, etc, yet the patients say that they pretty seldom eat meat.  Hladky says that the conditions are dire, and that they saw a lack of hygiene, with the patients dirty. In the morning, he says, they’re left in the burning sun in a “garden” with maximum 10 trees.  They bring a bucket with water once an hour, but only those fastest get a drink. He says that if a person does not even get water, this can be viewed as torture.

Svitlana Ustymenko, from the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy, says that people in psychiatric institutions are provided for by the State, but can give no explanation for such treatment of patients. She claims that many are not answerable for their actions, and that attention should be paid to what their warders say.

Public control needed

Executive Secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of Ukraine Semyon Gluzman says that the conditions need to be reviewed in each specific case. He stresses however that they are united by one factor, that being that they are also closed to the public.  He explains that psychiatric hospitals are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, whereas such psychiatric institutions answer to the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy. The hospitals are used for patients with acute forms of psychological disorder, whereas the homes are for people with chronic forms.

Semyon Gluzman says that the problem is not even that the psychiatric institutions are spread out between two ministries (which is found nowhere in the world), but that both are effectively closed regime institutions. He believes the problems will continue until adequate public control is created.  Dmitro Groisman, a trained doctor and human rights campaigner, agrees that violations will continue until independent and systematic public control is established.

Abridged from a report at www.radiosvoboda.org

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