Continued ill-treatment of psychiatric patients by staff demonstrates, once again, a continuing serious failure by the Ministry of Health to prevent and eradicate such unacceptable behaviour. Therapy opportunities in psychiatric institutions remain deficient, staffing levels insufficient and the use of mechanical restraint not in conformity with international standards, says the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) in a new report about its ad hoc visit to Bulgaria in March 2023. The CPT has observed, however, some progress in social care institutions and hopes for the continuation of genuine deinstitutionalisation. The report has been published together with the response of the Bulgarian authorities.
The CPT delegation visited Tserova Koria State Psychiatric Hospital for the first time, as well as Byala State Psychiatric Hospital, previously visited by the Committee in 2020. The delegation carried out first-time visits to the social care homes for persons with learning disabilities in Draganovo and Tri Kladentsi. The objective of the visit was to examine the implementation of the previous recommendations of the Committee and of the public statement issued by the CPT in November 2021.
Regarding ill-treatment by staff, in Byala Hospital, the delegation received a number of allegations from patients that, apart from staff shouting at patients, orderlies would also slap, punch and kick patients (including in the groin). In Tserova Koria Hospital, staff shouting at patients was allegedly routine; orderlies would reportedly also occasionally hit patients.
“Such findings demonstrate, once again, a continuing serious failure by the Ministry of Health to prevent all forms of ill-treatment of patients, to convey a clear and unambiguous message to the staff of psychiatric hospitals that the ill-treatment of patients will not be tolerated and will be the subject of appropriate sanctions, and to act to eradicate such unacceptable behaviour”, the Committee says.