Deputy-Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen finds it very worrying that in light of the current number of care personnel the safety of patients in the Prison Hospital is endangered. This applies especially to night shifts, during which one nurse can be responsible for 50 patients. The staffing level in the Prison Hospital is clearly lower than in, for example, the wards at health centres, although the patients there suffer from a greater variety of ailments and problems than patients at health centres.
The preliminary results of a study of the health of prisoners conducted by the Health Care Services unit of the Prison Service reveal that these patients are significantly sicker, both mentally and somatically, than twenty years ago. The Deputy-Ombudsman emphasises that the diversity of problems afflicting patients of the Prison Hospital should be taken into consideration in determining the staffing level. He points out that the constitutionally guaranteed right to personal safety imposes an obligation to ensure that conditions in a hospital are such that the safety of patients is not endangered. The authorities have a duty to be proactive in ensuring that conditions are safe.
The complaint concerning the number of personnel at the Prison Hospital was made by the chief shop steward and other members of staff there.
It emerged in the course of investigating the matter that cleaning work at the Prison Hospital depended in the evenings and at weekends on untrained substitute personnel. In the view of the Deputy-Ombudsman, the small number of trained institutional care personnel working at the Prison Hospital and the use of untrained persons for cleaning tasks there increase the risk of infectious diseases spreading and can thereby reduce patient safety, especially at weekends.
The Deputy-Ombudsman informed the Criminal Sanctions Agency and the Head Physician at the Health Care Services unit of the Prison Service of his view that the present level of nursing staff at the Prison Hospital is endangering patient safety and that the present cleaning arrangements there can pose a risk to the safety of patients, especially at weekends. He requested both parties to inform him by 31.12.2008 of what measures his expression of view have given rise to. He sent a copy of his decision also to the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for setting performance targets for the Criminal Sanctions Agency.
Another matter than the Deputy-Ombudsman found problematic was the inadequate powers of the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs (TEO). Namely, the lack of a specific provision means that TEO does not have the authority to direct and oversee the operations of the Prison Hospital. In the view of the Deputy-Ombudsman, it is not purposeful for some organisations that arrange health care services to be excluded from the scope of TEO's direction and oversight. He informed the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of this view.
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