Disproportionate isolation and severe restrictions – care centers in the shadow of Covid-19

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Despite the fact that the emergency situation in the country has ended, the daily restrictions on the spread of Covid-19 are still almost the strictest in the daily life of the clients of the State Social Care Center (VSAC), Ruta Siliņa, a representative of the Ombudsman’s Office, informed.

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According to a statement on the office’s website, during a state of emergency declared to limit the spread of Covid-19, both the public and residents of public social care centers had to comply with sufficiently strict movement restrictions.

However, while the rest of the public enjoys more lenient Covid-19 containment measures at the end of the emergency, the daily lives of VSAC clients still resemble disproportionate isolation, the Ombudsman’s office revealed.

It was pointed out that even now, after the lifting of the state of emergency, Ombudsman Juris Jansons is increasingly receiving information from clients of social care centers about strict restrictions on their rights.

Clients are still denied the opportunity to meet relatives or others in person, are denied the opportunity to resume work, for example, with local farmers, and are denied the opportunity to leave the institution on their own, for example to visit a local shop or church.

If the institution is abandoned without permission – the clients of the center are placed in isolation for 14 days, the Ombudsman’s Office has revealed. Also, VSAC clients are placed in isolators for 14 days after returning from the hospital, although the hospital has twice been tested for Covid -19 and the test results are negative, as in other cases.

The office also emphasized that there were concerns that social rehabilitation services were still not provided or were provided to a limited extent in some institutions.

The Ombudsman’s Office emphasized that any restrictions on human rights must be carefully assessed, proportionate and justified by law, therefore it is unacceptable that the management of institutions sees strict restrictions on the fundamental rights of clients as the only solution to ensure epidemiological security in the institution.

At the same time, it was noted that it is unacceptable for the clients of institutions to continue to be prohibited from leaving the institution, resuming employment, meeting with relatives and other persons, at a time when various restrictions on personal rights were significantly eased or even lifted. .

In the Ombudsman’s opinion, it is also unacceptable that social rehabilitation services are interrupted or significantly reduced even during an emergency situation, as this may have irreversible adverse consequences for the maintenance and development of clients’ cognitive abilities.

“It is understandable that in a crisis situation the best solutions for the protection of clients’ health are sought for a short time, however, institutions must find the opportunity to provide the services they need on a daily basis as soon as possible and in the most appropriate way,” the office said. leisure activities.

To solve this problem, on July 3, Jansons wrote to the Ministry of Welfare (MoW) calling on it to provide long-term social care and social rehabilitation institutions with methodological guidance on the necessary actions to respect clients’ rights to prevent human rights violations and inform the ombudsman about actions taken.

In its response letter, the MoW stated that the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) had reported that high incidence and mortality of Covid-19 in long-term care facilities had been reported in Europe, causing serious problems for infection prevention and control in such facilities. In that regard, the SPKC stated that it was essential to be able to quickly identify, assess and control outbreaks of Covid-19 in institutions in order to protect the general public at high risk of infection and mass illness, so that certain restrictions were maintained even after the emergency was lifted.

They were included in the Covid-19 Infection Control Act, which sets out the basic principles for the operation of public institutions, including the provision of post-emergency social services, as well as appropriate precautions and restrictions for individuals, including special conditions for education, sports, social and health services. during the Covid-19 distribution period.

At the same time, in order to achieve a uniform approach of institutions in setting restrictions even after an emergency situation, the MoW developed recommendations for long-term social care and social rehabilitation institutions for gradual reduction of quarantine restrictions, which were agreed with the Ministry of Health (MoW).

The Ministry emphasized that in accordance with the recommendations developed by it, the reception of visitors is allowed, if it is coordinated with the administration of the institution and the observance of epidemiological safety measures is ensured. At the same time, the movement of clients outside the territory is allowed in small groups (not more than ten people) accompanied by employees, observing distance and other security measures.

In its reply letter, the MoW stated that in order to be able to operationally address the issue, it had approached the SPCC with a request to provide the information available to the center on institutions where clients were left unattended, as well as on the number of infected clients and employees in specific institutions. and the planned joint inspections of institutions by the Health Inspectorate, it would be possible to find out the shortcomings in the care of clients during quarantine and to provide recommendations for further supervision of clients “.

At the same time, the MoW pointed out that as restrictions have been reviewed in several areas, as well as proposals of institutions for reviewing its recommendations have been received, the Ministry has developed new recommendations to facilitate restrictive measures, which will be sent to institutions and published on the MoW website.

In addition, the Ministry was informed that in order to ascertain how customer-oriented long-term social care, social rehabilitation and health care services are provided, joint inspections of the MoW and the Health Inspectorate are planned in the future.

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