30th Nov 2021

Bulgaria mental-health patients found covered in flies

  • Kardzhali Hospital was among the facilities visited by the delegation (Photo: Council of Europe)
Listen to article

Bulgaria has been condemned for degrading and inhumane treatment of people in state psychiatric hospitals and social care homes.

"They were found by the visiting delegation to be lying in rusted beds and dirty mattresses covered in flies," Alan Mitchell told EUobserver, last week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Mitchell is the president of an anti-torture committee at the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.

He described a "nauseating stench of urine" in some of the facilities, with some patients neglected and restrained in belts for days on end.

Allegations of slaps, kicks and others beaten with sticks have also been made.

Others still, who had volunteered to be hospitalised, are now de-facto detained against their will and held without hope, says a report by the anti-torture committee.

"This primitive situation adds further to the impression that Bulgaria remains decades behind expectations regarding a modern state's provision of mental healthcare," notes the report.

The findings were made following a visit by a delegation from the committee to Bulgaria last August.

The team included mental health experts and a forensic psychiatrist, among others.

Together they visited three psychiatric hospitals (Kardzhali, Karlukovo, and Lovech) run by the Bulgaria's ministry of health.

They also went to homes for people with learning disabilities and psychiatric disorders in Banya, Gara Lakatnik, and Petkovo.

The homes are run by the ministry of labour and social policy.

"They have been abandoned by the state," said Mitchell, noting the facilities are severely understaffed.

The committee had made similar complaints over the Bulgarian state neglect and abuse in 2017.

Patients in one home in Radovets had been found covered in flies "with the floors flooded in urine and faeces."

Mitchell said the Bulgarian state had done nothing to improve the conditions.

It is the first time the committee has ever issued a public statement on psychiatry and social care in any of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

The other states have also been visited.

Although they too have issues, improvements have not been made in Bulgaria, an EU member state.

"Public statements are incredibly unusual for the committee to make," said Mitchell, noting their concerns have been dismissed and ignored by the Bulgarian state for years.

The Bulgarian government did not reply to emailed questions on the abuse and neglect.

Consultancies pocketing EU millions prompts MEP grilling

The European Commission spent €542.4m between 2016 and 2020 for studies written by external private contractors. The findings are part of a larger probe into how large consultancies are increasingly landing lucrative contracts, amid questions on possible conflicts of interest.

EU to open up 'black box' of political ads

Paid political ads will have to show how much was spent on the ad, the sources of funds, the name of the sponsor. "Without providing this information, political advertisement will be illegal," commission vice-president Věra Jourová said.

News in Brief

  1. Ukraine eyes end of EU gas transit from 2024
  2. France says ready to talk about migrants if UK serious
  3. Latvia calls for permanent US troops to guard against Russia
  4. OPCW members urge Russia to come clean on Navalny
  5. Japan bars foreign arrivals as omicron spreads
  6. US to expel 54 more Russian diplomats, Moscow says
  7. Chinese president promises Africa one billion Covid vaccines
  8. Andersson elected as Swedish PM for second time in one week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Frontex implicated 'to some extent' in violations, says officer
  2. Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says
  3. Pesticides 'cost double the amount they yield', study finds
  4. Scholz's first job? Work with Poland on Belarus crisis
  5. Why Is Italy struggling to convert its anti-vaxxers?
  6. Consultancies pocketing EU millions prompts MEP grilling
  7. Russian mercenaries using EU-trained soldiers in Africa
  8. EUobserver wins right to keep VIP-jet story online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us