Man overcharged for hospital stay complains to Ombudsman

Date of article: 05/12/2018

Daily News of: 18/12/2018

Country:  Ireland

Author: National Ombudsman of Ireland

Article language: en

A man complained to Ombudsman Peter Tyndall after he was charged €1,500 for a number of hospital stays. This was despite a cap of €750 on such charges at the time.

The man, who suffers from a severe kidney condition, was admitted to two different hospitals over 12 months. He spent a total of 30 nights in hospital. At the time there was a €75 per day charge for a hospital stay. (The charge is now €80 per day). However, this charge was capped at €750 in any 12 month period regardless of how many public hospitals a patient is admitted to, or the condition that requires treatment.

When the Ombudsman investigated the complaint he was initially told by the HSE that the 12 month cap was in respect of each hospital and, therefore, the man was correctly charged €1,500. However when the Ombudsman brought the relevant legislation to the HSE’s attention it agreed to refund the excess charge to the man.

The man spent nine nights in the first hospital and was correctly charged €675. He then had to spend 20 nights in a second hospital. The second hospital charged him the capped fee of €750, but did not take account of the €675 the man had already paid the first hospital.

There is no integrated payment system for managing hospital charges and the Ombudsman was concerned that other patients could be similarly effected in the future. As a result, the HSE published clearer guidelines on its website, along with advice on the importance of patients keeping receipts. It has also updated information notices in hospitals and asked hospital groups to do the same. The Ombudsman will review the actions taken by the HSE in the coming months.

Patients who have queries on their hospital charge should contact the HSE by phone at: 041 6850300 or by e mail at: hselive@hse.ie

END

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Adam Bodnar at the Public Hearing on “The situation of the Rule of Law in Poland, in particular as regards the independence of the judiciary”

Date of article: 01/12/2018

Daily News of: 18/12/2018

Country:  Poland

Author: Polish Ombudsman

Article language: en

  • From 19 until 21 September 2018, a delegation of the LIBE Committee visited Warsaw to examine the rule of law situation in Poland. In follow-up to that mission, LIBE Coordinators decided to hold a public hearing with external experts and stakeholders during the LIBE Committee meeting of 20 November 2018 in Brussels.

  • Adam Bodnar took part in the public hearing. He spoke about judicial reforms in Poland and the threats to the rule of law.

 

Speech of the Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bonar. Public hearing – LIBE COMMITTEE

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Dear Members of the LIBE Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for the invitation to participate in the public hearing.

I represent the Office of the Polish Ombudsman, which is the constitutional organ dedicated to safeguard rights and freedoms in the Republic of Poland. Together with 300 staff, my role is to respond to complaints, but also to take care about the general situation concerning protection of human rights in Poland.

I believe that it is the role of the Ombudsman to respond and react when system of protection of human rights in Poland is in danger. Judicial review of legislation, as well as operation of independent courts are crucial to safeguard protection of human rights. I would like to underline that I am in favor or judicial reforms in Poland. Poland needs reforms increasing efficiency of courts.  However, any such reform should respect rule of law standards. The notion of “reform” should not be abused to justify changes affecting judicial independence and division of powers. At the end of the day, real victims of such changes are citizens (including minority groups) and their right to independent court.

The Ombudsman monitors the situation in Poland concerning rule of law. The Ombudsman is also active in monitoring the situation of judges who are subject of political pressure.

In my opinion the most important danger concerning rule of law situation is lack of independent judicial review in Poland. The Constitutional Court, due to various reasons, elaborated extensively in the Venice Commission reports and number of international documents, cannot act independently. As a result, when legislation of highly political nature is adopted, citizens cannot count on independent judicial review.

This situation empowered the Parliament to adopt significant laws that centralized the state power. Those laws included inter alia laws on Prosecutor’s office, laws regulating different  surveillance powers and public media.

Venice Commission has adopted comprehensive recommendations concerning the status of the prosecutor’s office and surveillance powers. They were, however, not implemented at all, despite recommendations and appeals by the civil society.

With respect to public media, the Constitutional Court on 13 December 2016 found that their status violates the Constitution. Nevertheless, this judgment of the Court was never implemented. It should be noted that the pluralistic character of public media is of vital importance in the context of upcoming European Parliament elections. Therefore, there is a clear link with the EU law in this regard.

In my opinion piece for “Politico” in April 2018 I have called on the European Union to undertake legal actions in order to stop the process of dismantling judicial independence. I do believe that the infringement procedure initiated by the European Commission had a decisive importance for the independence of the Supreme Court.

As a result of the preliminary interim measure issued on 19 October 2018, 22 retired judges have come back to work. There is still a doubt whether the EU law, as interpreted by the CJEU, is the sufficient legal ground to adjudicate cases. In my opinion – it is. Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity in the Polish law, there is a need to adopt legislative changes. Such changes, however, should consist of very simple provisions – declaring new retirement provisions as being null and void and confirming that judges of the Supreme Court have a power to adjudicate cases.

But I would like to underline that it is just one of many problems concerning rule of law in Poland. The situation of the Supreme Court is the most symbolic one and the most visible one. But “rule of law” is not only about specific issues concerning retirement age of judges. It is not only about the protection of the highest court in the Republic of Poland. Rule of law is about respect for institutional values that provide a protection against arbitrary power.

In this context, I would like to concentrate on the status of the National Council of Judiciary and on disciplinary proceedings concerning judges.

Amendment of the Act on the National Council of Judiciary provided for a creation of a body, whose judicial members were appointed by 3/5 of the Parliament, and not by peers.

During my public statements in the Parliament I submitted that this new method of selection of the judicial members was contrary to the Polish Constitution and constitutional tradition. It was also the opinion of many scholars and intellectuals, including Professor Adam Strzembosz – a Polish hero, who worked on the model of the Polish judiciary during Round Table talks in 1989.

After the legislative change the process of selection of new judicial members was made in a highly non-transparent manner. Every judicial candidate could be submitted upon recommendation of 25 fellow judges. However, until today – despite motions submitted by the non-governmental organizations, the public opinion do not know who supported those candidates. Due to different actions, including competitions for judicial positions in the Supreme Court – despite measures ordered by the Supreme Administrative Court – there is a growing distrust into the operation of the NCJ. It is one of the reason why the Council was suspended in the ENCJ.

In my opinion, one should not think that as long as the situation with the Supreme Court is somehow resolved due to return of 22 judges, the status of the NCJ should not be subject of attention. The NCJ is a crucial body in judicial appointments. It is also the most important organ safeguarding judicial independence. It is one of the “checks and balances” organs – therefore it should be independent.

There are also serious concerning concerning disciplinary measures against judges.

The new system is construed as follows. Presiding Disciplinary Judge is a judge, who is appointed by the Minister of Justice for fixed term. Presiding Disciplinary Judge may act individually, but also via its deputies, who are also appointed by the Minister of Justice. The first instance is Appeals Court in Warsaw, second is the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court (except for the Supreme Court judges). One should underline that as a result of changes in the Polish judiciary, the disciplinary chamber in the Supreme Court has been newly created  and packed in with new judges, earning 40% more than regular Supreme Court judges. The Disciplinary Chamber has a special character, within the structure of the Supreme Court, which creates additional controversy.

As the Ombudsman I try to monitor every disciplinary case which is initiated by authorities and which may seem as having a political character. Currently, the Ombudsman is monitoring cases concerning 8 judges. Those cases are still at their explanatory phase. However, their substance is of significant importance for Polish judges and their ability to act.

There were two cases initiated at the explanatory stage for making a preliminary reference to the CJEU. Those cases concerned judges Ewa Maciejewska and Igor Tuleya

Four judges were subject of disciplinary proceedings, at the explanatory stage for commenting in media on the situation concerning Polish judiciary and reforms undertaken by the government. Those judges include: Bartłomiej Przymusiński, Igor Tuleya, Krystian Markiewicz – head of the Iustitia Judicial Association, and Monika Frąckowiak.

I was informed by the Deputy Disciplinary Judge that those judges were asked to make a statement as “witnesses” in the context of explanatory proceedings. Please note that all those judges were officially called to the disciplinary prosecutor in order to be interrogated. Interestingly, on 10 October 2018, attorney Jacek Dubois was refused to participate in the interrogation. He submitted his own case to the Ombudsman.

There is also a case concerning referring to actual political situation in legal grounds to the judgment  concerning politician of the opposition party. This case was initiated against judge Sławomir Jęksa.

Finally, there were explanatory disciplinary proceedings for using the judicial gown and judicial chain during the simulation of the mock trial. Those cases concerned Monika Frąckowiak, Arkadiusz Krupa

There are different proceedings concerning Judge Waldemar Żurek, Regional Court in Krakow, former spokesperson of the National Council of Judiciary. He was moved from the civil appeals division of the Regional Court to first instance division of the Appeals Court despite his lack of consent. His superior is a newly appointed President of the Regional Court in Warsaw, who is at the same time member of the NCJ. There is a risk that this case is of political nature. According to media, judge Żurek initiated his own against the President of the Regional Court, claiming that he is a victim of mobbing practices.

We should draw following conclusions from existing disciplinary cases against judges.

  1. Those cases are at explanatory stage. However, their political and legal context of just starting proceedings against selected judges create a risk a “chilling effect” on the operation of judiciary. According to recent poll by “Rzeczpospolita” daily (among 1142 judges) more than 64% of Polish judges claim that the current situation in judiciary may affect their work. 90% of them claims that judicial independence is under threat;
  2. No judge should be ever subject to any disciplinary proceedings (even if they are at explanatory stage) for making preliminary references to the CJEU;
  3. There is a question whether existence of special, extraordinary disciplinary procedures, with a significant involvement of the executive power, is in compliance with the principle of effective legal protection, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Treaty. One of the preliminary references concerns this issue.
  4. Existence of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, with its distinct character, creates a risk of disciplinary sanctions (including removal) for judges, who are against reforms threatening judicial independence or who issue judgments contrary to political expectations.

To conclude, there are following major points to take into account:

  • Possibility to exercise effective judicial review of legislation in Poland;
  • Implementation of the Venice Commission recommendations concerning the prosecutor’s office and surveillance actions;
  • Implementation of the judgment of the Constitutional Court concerning public media, especially in the context of upcoming European Parliament elections;
  • Status of the National Council of Judiciary;
  • Monitoring of disciplinary proceedings against judges in Poland.
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Ombudsman suggests further anti-harassment measures for EU institutions

Date of article: 19/12/2018

Daily News of: 19/12/2018

Country:  EUROPE

Author: European Ombudsman

Article language: en

The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has drawn up a list of good practices after reviewing the anti-harassment policies in 26 EU institutions and agencies.

The practices cover awareness raising, workplace risk assessment, regular policy monitoring, mandatory training, swift procedures, and rehabilitation measures.

“While the EU institutions generally have good anti-harassment policies, my report shows that more can and must be done to bring them into line with the legitimate expectations of a post #MeToo society.”

“The aim of this mapping exercise is to assist in the standardising of these identified practices across all EU institutions,” said Ms O’Reilly.

Other important measures include allowing trainees to make formal complaints about harassment; regular training for confidential counsellors and the setting up of a pool of independent investigators, which institutions can draw upon during formal harassment investig

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La Médiatrice propose de nouvelles mesures contre le harcèlement dans les institutions de l’UE

Date of article: 19/12/2018

Daily News of: 19/12/2018

Country:  EUROPE

Author: European Ombudsman

Article language: fr

La Médiatrice européenne, Emily O'Reilly, a dressé une liste de bonnes pratiques après avoir examiné les politiques contre le harcèlement dans 26 institutions et agences de l’UE.

Les pratiques en question comprennent une meilleure sensibilisation, une évaluation des risques sur le lieu de travail, un suivi régulier des politiques menées, des formations obligatoires, des procédures rapides et des mesures de protection.

«Alors que les institutions de l’UE ont en général de bonnes politiques contre le harcèlement, mon rapport met en évidence qu’on peut et qu’on doit faire plus pour qu’elles soient en phase avec les attentes légitimes suite au mouvement #MeToo.»

«L’objectif de cette analyse est d’aider à normaliser ces pratiques identifiées au sein de toutes les institutions de l’UE», a dit Mme O’Reilly.

Parmi les mesures à mettre en place, il faut également prévoir : la possibilité pour les stagiaires d’

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El Diputado del Común y “Todos somos Guacy” aúnan fuerzas en favor de los niños huérfanos por violencia de género

Date of article: 19/12/2018

Daily News of: 19/12/2018

Country:  Spain - Canary Islands

Author: Regional Ombudsman of the Canary Islands

Article language: es

La adjunta especial de Igualdad y Violencia de Género del Diputado del Común, Beatriz Barrera, se reunió con la presidenta de la Asociación “Todos somos Guacy”, Luz Marina Rodríguez, con el objetivo de conocer en primera persona la lucha que emprendió desde que su hermana falleciera víctima de un asesinato machista.

Luz Marina Rodríguez asegura que el principal motivo de la ...

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