P R E S S R E L E A S E 12 July 2004, Budapest. The Hungarian Mental Health Interest Forum (PIF) and the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) welcome a ministerial decree banning the use of cage beds within psychiatric and social care facilities in Hungary. Cage beds - hospital beds with a metal or netted cage placed on top of them to enclose a person within their confines - currently exist throughout the Hungarian psychiatric system. The Hungarian government has been under pressure for a number of years to end the use of this medieval practice. On 6th July 2004 The Hungarian Minister for Health, Social and Family Affairs, Mr Mihaly Kvkiny, issued a legally-binding ministerial decree making the use of cage beds unlawful, something which was promised to happen by the end of 2003. Gabor Gombos, the chair of PIF, said, "We are glad that cage beds will finally be consigned to the dustbin of history. However, the decree fails to address one of our central concerns, namely that staff of psychiatric institutions be trained in de-escalation techniques and safe restraint use, as mandated in the standards of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). There is no doubt that the lack of training will directly endanger the safety of both patients and staff." MDAC's Legal Director Oliver Lewis commented, "As the decree does not include a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the decree, we ask the Hungarian government to allow unrestricted access to non-governmental organizations to perform human rights monitoring. A failure to do so will reinforce an environment in which psychiatric staff may continue to abuse the rights of patients with impunity." Commenting on the European situation, John Bowis, Member of the European Parliament from the UK, added, "The Hungarian abolition of cage-bed use is an important step in Europe, and one which the governments of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia should urgently follow. These countries should also follow the sensitive way in which the Hungarian Minister engaged with the civil society and professional organizations while formulating the decree." The decree also states that restraints cannot be used to restrict a patient's right to refuse treatment, especially in relation to medical research and testing of medicines. Another positive development is that the decree allows for the elimination of cage bed use in long-stay "social care homes" with an absolute ban coming into force on 1 January 2005. This is important since many of the victims of cage bed abuse have been subject to cage beds for many years and therefore require appropriate rehabilitative measures prior to implementation of the ban. Both PIF and MDAC remain concerned about certain aspects of the decree. Problems pointed out by PIF and MDAC during the consultation phase (but not addressed in the decree) are: * The Ministry's failure to invest in training of healthcare staff questions its commitment to take human rights seriously." * The decree fails to specify a maximum length of time for which restraints can be used. Instead, this is to be determined by internal rules of each hospital, leaving patients inadequately protected by the law. * The decree fails to establish a system for the central collection of statistics on restraint and seclusion-contrary to CPT standards-making it impossible to assess the frequency of restraint use. * The decree fails to establish any system of monitoring the implementation of the Decree or of human rights practices in general. In the absence of such monitoring, it is impossible to know whether the Decree will be followed. * If a patient's behaviour is considered "dangerous", the decree allows for only one review per week of the patient's freedom of movement within the territory of the hospital. * The decree regulates restraints within institutions, but is silent about the degrading and sometimes dangerous way in which people are brought in to psychiatric institutions by police and emergency services. The Mental Health Interest Forum (PIF) H-1437 Budapest, PO Box 287, Hungary tel: (+361) 341-0521 fax: (+361) 268-9917 email: email@example.com http://www.pef.fw.hu Mental Disability Advocacy Center H-1241 Budapest, PO Box 263, Hungary tel: (+361) 413-2730 fax: (+361) 413-2739 email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.mdac.info ========== Psychology and Human Rights listserv ========== Send mail intended for the list to <email@example.com>. Archives of the list can be found at: http://www.hrea.org/lists/psychology-humanrights-l/markup/maillist.php To subscribe to the list, send a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, with the following text in the message: subscribe psychology-humanrights-l To unsubscribe from the list, send a message to <email@example.com>, with the following text in the message: unsubscribe psychology-humanrights-l If you have problems (un)subscribing, contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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