The current challenges of the provision of healthcare in prisons, as well as upcoming activities on addressing them were discussed by all relevant stakeholders in Mavrovo on 21-22 March 2022.
The coordination meeting, organised in the framework of the joint EU and Council of Europe Horizontal Facility II programme, was attended by governors of all prisons and the management of the Directorate for the Execution of Sanctions (DES), Ministry of Health officials responsible for primary healthcare, managers of the Skopje health institute, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office, as well as some of prison doctors.
The meeting was opened by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, who thanked the Council of Europe for its support and reiterated the continuous commitment of the Ministry. “Healthcare is a basic human right and all state institutions are obliged by law to provide healthcare for the sentenced persons, equivalent as those in the community,” said Mr Marjan Spasovski, Head of the DES, in his opening remarks. All participants praised the project for its role in enhancing capacities of the medical staff and for improving the material conditions in the prisons in North Macedonia. In the past year, the Council of Europe has provided medical equipment for six penitentiary institutions, at total value of over 46,000 EUR including a dental cabinet in Idrizovo, the largest prison in the country.
Recognizing the recruitment of healthcare staff as the key challenge, recommendations proposed by the Council of Europe consultants were accepted with consensus. Also, the findings and recommendations of the CoE CPT Reports, the Ombudsman report, as well as reports produced within the project were discussed. As a next step, the action will work with the Ministry of Health and with DES, in the implementation of the recommendations, which is expected to improve the conditions and incentives for the medical staff working in penitentiary institutions.
The draft Standard Operative Procedures (SOP) on provision of effective healthcare in prisons, which were developed within the project, was approved in proposed form as a final draft. As of May 2022, the draft SOP will be piloted in prison Stip, under the supervision and guidance of the CoE consultants.
This activity was organised under the action on “Enhancing the capacities of the penitentiary system and the external oversight mechanism in North Macedonia”, which is a part of the joint European Union and Council of Europe programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022".