Recent developments in mental health policy

The Romanian human rights organization Center for Legal Resources - Centrul de Resurse Juridice - published a small report about the living and treatment conditions in various psychiatric hospitals in Romania at the beginning of 2004. The director of the Center at that time Mrs. Renate Weber is nowadays an adviser of president Basescu. So the president knows from almost first hand the situation in the hospitals. I hope that he also knows that the criticized condition in hospitals like Gataia, has nothing to do with lack of dedication from the staff.

Based on the Centers report, Amnesty International wrote “Romania, memorandum to the government concerning inpatient psychiatric treatment” (http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur390032004; Press statement:
http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR390052004?open&of=ENG-ROM)

Amnesty is well equipped to make a lot of noise. The publicity the report got must have been one of the reasons for the reaction of the Romanian government. First a Memorandum was published on the subject “measures for the Rehabilitation of the mental health care system”.

For many people, authorities and other civilians, the report appeared out of the blue. All of them seem to have forgotten that a national commission had studied in 1998 the situation in Poiana Mare living hell after the report of an European delegation on torture and maltreatment of prisoners. The president of the commission professor Tudor Udristoiu and the members advised unanimously to close down Poiana Mare hospital. Nothing happened.

The Romanian government did more. The department of Health and the Family published “Mental Health Policy of the Romanian Ministry of Health”. The model on it self is interesting.

Europe got interested and offered Romania a subsidy to hire an European institute to help to implement the design. The Netherlands School of Public and Occupational Health got the appointment. Their application is published on this website partially: “Action Plan for the implementation of the Mental Policy of the Romanian Ministry of Health”.

To place the discussion in a broader perspective we follow once again Craiova’s professor Tudor Udristoiu - until autumn 2005 president of the Romanian Psychiatric Association - and publish the conclusions of the “Craiova Declaration”. In the declaration representatives of the psychiatric associations from the Balkan and Eastern Europe describe the situation of psychiatry in their countries. They hope that their proposals will be accepted by the world congress in Egypt in September 2005.

Martin Willems, August 2005

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