20 September 2023
Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva will participate in the discussion “The quality of psychiatric care and the rights of people with mental health problems in Bulgaria: challenges and solutions”, organised by MP Stela Nikolova.
The event will be held today, 20 September 2023, at 2 p.m. in the East hall of the National Assembly.
The main focus of the forum is the state of psychiatric care, access to social support for people with mental health problems and the effective protection of their rights.
The focus of Prof. Kovacheva’s speech is the poor quality of health care provided in these places, the chronic lack of financial resources for their subsistence – the lack of quality food, the purchase of modern medicines and bed linen, the harsh sanitary and living conditions, the urgent need of repair, etc.
Another major problem in psychiatric institutions is the lack of specialised staff – in some state wards there is no psychiatrist assigned, but doctors with another specialty such as internal medicine, surgery, general medicine, including those without a specialty, work there.
Overcrowding has traditionally been one of the most serious problems identified by the Ombudsman in state psychiatric hospitals – in some hospitals there are rooms with 10 beds and not enough space for the patients to move freely.
Food is another problem – of note is the fact that the meal for one patient per day in the hospital in the town of Byala as of August this year is BGN 2.76. According to the NSI inflation calculator, from January 2021 to July 2023, the consumer price inflation index is 29.9%. In other words, one meal per patient as of August 2023 should have amounted to BGN 3.25.
Another fact based on NPM observations is the traditional lack of dairy products, fruits, fresh vegetables, fish in the patients’ menu.
For information, one medicine day in the hospital in the town of Radnevo was BGN 2.01 in 2021, and in August 2023 it was reduced to BGN 1.57. There are even psychiatric facilities in which, as of August this year, medicines per day amounted to BGN 0.68, which raises huge concerns about the quality of medical care provided.
Due to the chronic shortage of funds, the Ombudsman today also referred the Chairman of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the reason being the 10-year failure by the Ministry of Health to implement Decision No. 152 of 1 July 2013. The decision obliges the Ministry of Health to provide the necessary financial resources to the state psychiatric hospitals to improve the quality of medical services provided and to comply with the established medical standards.
The Ombudsman’s main recommendation from the inspections reveals the urgent and dire need of reform in state psychiatric hospitals.