21st Sep 2023

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.

Omicron wreaks havoc across eastern Europe

Romania's underfunded public health system was on the verge of collapse during the last surge of cases. Hospital morgues were full, and some patients were transferred abroad for treatment because Covid-19 intensive care units were at full capacity.


Orbán's 'revenge law' is an Orwellian crackdown on education

On Tuesday, the Hungarian parliament passed a troubling piece of legislation known by its critics as the 'revenge law', which aims to punish and intimidate teachers who dare to defy Viktor Orbán's regime. This law is a brutally oppressive tool.

Latest News

  1. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies
  2. Antifascism and fascism are opposites, whatever elites say
  3. MEPs back Germany's Buch to lead ECB supervisory arm
  4. Russia to blame for Azerbaijan attack, EU says
  5. Fresh dispute may delay EU-wide migration reforms
  6. MEPs call for extra €10bn to boost EU's long-term budget
  7. No changes to Turkey deal on Nato, Sweden says
  8. Socialist MEP defends own side jobs after voting to ban others

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us