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Health centre violated patient's personal liberty

Ombudsman recommends recompense

Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has asked the company that takes care of on-call health centre services in Lohja to consider how it could make recompense to a patient for a violation of fundamental and human rights.

"The company violated the patient's personal liberty and caused this person excessive suffering of a kind that can not be made up for by acknowledging it or issuing a rebuke for it," is the view taken by the Ombudsman in a recent decision based on a statement by Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.

The Ombudsman launched his investigation into the way the patient had been treated on his own initiative. The matter had arisen in conjunction with a complaint on which a decision was issued in 2011.
 
Numerous faults

The Ombudsman found several flawed features in the way the patient had been dealt with and the actions of the company that was taking care of on-call services at the health centre.

In his assessment, the patient's personal liberty was violated more than would have been necessary when he was placed groundlessly in an isolation room. Excessive suffering was caused the patient when he was transported, in restraints, in an ambulance to his home municipality nearly 300 km away.

"A treatment place should have been looked for closer to hand and there is no Act on the basis of which the patient could have been bound in the ambulance," the Ombudsman points out.

A further matter that the Ombudsman considers a serious error is that the doctor who treated the patient did not record his decisions concerning isolation and constraint. In addition, the M1 referral, which provides for treatment without the patient's consent, had been drafted in a way that fell short of the required standard and the wrong medication had been prescribed to calm the patient during the trip.

The fact that the patient's condition was monitored without his being within earshot while he was in the isolation room was likewise not in accordance with good treatment practice.

 An outsourced service is equatable with one provided by an authority

The legislation currently in force does not give a health centre the power to restrict a patient's right of self-determination. Restriction may, however, be permitted in a situation of necessity, but then the measures taken must be absolutely unavoidable and in accordance with good treatment practice.

On-call services at the health centre in Lohja outside normal working hours have been outsourced to Attendo Terveyspalvelut Oy.  When a private body performs a public task, its activities are in this respect subject to the Ombudsman's oversight and its liability for compensation can be equated to that which an authority bears.

Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Håkan Stoor, tel. + 358(0)9 432 3366.