The Seimas Ombudsman was unpleasantly surprised by the prevailing human right violations in Kaunas District social care institutions

12 September 2016

A. NormantasAfter the second visit to Kaunas District nursing homes, advisers of the Human Rights Division of the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office were unpleasantly surprised by the huge number of unsolved problems, even though they had already been identified during the first visit to these nursing homes last year.

Mr. Augustinas Normantas, the Seimas Ombudsman, could not conceal his deep disappointment with the findings. "The saddest thing is that the institutions have failed to solve even those problems, which do not require additional financial resources,"‌ he said.

The Seimas Ombudsman noted that only two out of eleven care facilities, Ežerelis Social Care Home and Panemunės Elderly Care Home, had managed to solve all the issues related to human rights violations. "However, there were such institutions as elderly care homes 'Užusaliai,' 'Globasta,' or 'Auksinis Amžius,' which had solved only an insignificant number of problems established by us," noted Mr. Normantas.

Among the listed shortcomings were a non-functional emergency system, a practice of locking elderly patients in their rooms, allowing them to bathe only once every two weeks, and not disinfecting worn-out, dirty, or torn mattresses before passing them over to other residents.

"During a further visit to care home 'Užusaliai,' we found some residents, who were locked from the outside with keys only available to the care personnel. The head of the house explained to the officers of the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office that it was done with an aim to ensure the safety of residents. However, barring a person in a room is strictly prohibited," emphasised Mr. Normantas.

In the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, personal security must be guaranteed without interfering with privacy and dignity of residents. Social workers should encourage the elderly to fend for themselves and to use their own skills.

"Personal daily activities must be organised in such a way as to support, foster, and motivate a person to strive for the highest possible independence, catering to their needs, to maintain the living room and more. Therefore, social workers must continually promote personal autonomy and privacy," said the Ombudsman.

In the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, it is also intolerable when the care workers do not knock when entering residents' rooms, and medical personnel performs check-ups in front of strangers without using folding screens to provide temporary privacy: "Such behaviour depersonalises residents as if they do not have dignity."

When revisiting 'Globasta' care home, the employees of the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office found no emergency buttons in the residents' rooms, while the quality standards for health and social care require the emergency system to be installed in all the residents' rooms and personal hygiene facilities. In addition, there were some institutions where the emergency systems did not work.

The Ombudsman expressed his hope that the executives of care facilities are responsible and will eliminate violations: "If however, the problems associated with human rights violations remain unsolved, we will take the strictest measures. The Seimas Ombudsmen may refer to the founders of care homes for the evaluation of the personnel in charge or if that does not help, apply to the court. However, we believe that the Department of Supervision of Social Services, which issues licenses to these institutions, will assess these institutions as well. "