Allegations of mistreated children in mental health hospital

Kids at the children's psychoneurological hospital Ainazi were tied to beds for days and even weeks on end, Ombudsman Juris Jansons said at a press conference called January 31 to inform the media about violations ascertained at the hospital.

The way children were treated at the hospital borders on torture, said Jansons.

Last year, Ombudsman's Office received several complaints from parents of children treated at the hospital, which informed ombudsman about violations of children's rights taking place at the hospital.

Several visits to the hospital followed where Jansons met with children and hospital staff members, as well as inspected various documents there.

One major problem found at Ainazi is that the hospital is understaffed, explained Jansons. There are eighty beds in the hospital, and there were 74 patients there at the moment the inspections were taking place. However, there is just one psychiatrist working in the hospital, and no night staff at all. Children were not informed about their treatment or when they would go home, although underage patients have every right to receive such information, said Jansons.

During the inspection, children complained about physical and emotional violence on the part of hospital personnel. They said those who were misbehaving were tied to their beds or otherwise punished.

"Several children told us that children in the hospital could be tied to their beds for days and weeks on end. I'm not ruling out that there could have been objective reasons for this, but these reasons were not documented," said Jansons.

Furthermore, children in the hospital are not allowed to have any personal items or call their parents from the hospital. Meals are the same for all children, regardless of their age, which means that older children are always hungry.

Jansons has forwarded all findings to the Prosecutor General's Office.

Ainazi hospital's board member Ilona Balode has been suspended pending investigation. Balode has admitted that sometimes children were tied to their beds in the hospital, but denied that any laws or regulations had been violated.

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