Monday, August 15

The Ombudsman denounces discrimination against women and uncovers a case of sexual violence in the psychiatric hospital in Conxo


A new report by the Ombudsman draws attention once again to the serious deficiencies at the Conxo psychiatric hospital. The High Commissioner has already denounced human rights violations in the center, such as sedating patients and resorting to immobilizing them. The case reached the European Parliament. Now, after a surprise visit that took place on July 6, 7 and 8 of this year, discriminatory practices against women have been found and a case of sexual violence that occurred in the facilities has been uncovered and has been reported in court. .

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At the beginning of July, the director and three technicians of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (NPM) -dependent of the Ombudsman- and three external technicians came to the center to make a visit with a gender perspective: a doctor, a psychiatrist and a psychologist. They have sent their conclusions to the Xunta, which has not responded. The report has been disseminated by the Galego da Sa├║de Mental Movement (MGSM), which describes the situation in the psychiatric center as “worrying, intolerable, suffocating”.

The report states that, during the interviews that the team conducted with the residents, one of them revealed an episode of sexual violence of which she was a victim in the center. The management carried out, according to the conclusions, an approach to the problem “delegitimizing and revictimizing”. This attitude, they add, was verified during the visit and “proves the difficulty of any type of disclosure and the lack of protection against abuse.” The case is in the hands of the courts after the intervention of the NPM because the victim “maintains his desire to report.” The experts point out as one of the deficiencies that in the Conxo psychiatric hospital there is no protocol for the prevention and protection of gender violence or any other type of violence or abuse.

The NPM refers to a series of observations that range from the use of non-inclusive language to the lack of training of personnel with a gender perspective and the lack of guarantee of sexual and reproductive rights. In the text, the experts return to focus on the entry times. Women have a higher average stay than men -14 years compared to 12-, but there are people who have been admitted for more than 50 years. When they are discharged, men are more likely to go home (51.3% versus 39% for women). They have a “higher dependency profile” that the report associates with deteriorating health and less autonomy for activities of daily living in the psychiatric female population.

The report also denounces that there is a “low percentage” of patients who benefit from occupational workshops. They are only 23%. And there is “a clear stereotypical division of tasks”: there are no women in gardening and only two are in carpentry, but there are 13 out of 15 in laundry. In addition, the text warns that this activity is of “special toughness” because it provides service to several hospital units and those who are in charge of it are mainly women over 50 years of age. The jobs are not “appropriate to the age and physical circumstances” of these people, he adds.

The Ombudsman also confirms that there is no suicide prevention protocol adjusted to medium and long-term residential institutions, nor is there a therapeutic approach to addictions, despite the fact that it is a problem known to the staff and that it is a “frequent reason for sanction , from going back to the closed module and penalty without exits or without activities “. The report also detects difficulties for women in the closed module to be able to communicate with the outside world – only one call per week and without a space that offers privacy – and that the people under the guardianship of the Galician Public Foundation for the Guardianship of Adult People (Funga) they have “little follow-up”, they do not receive regular visits and suffer “a lower level of economic autonomy and less decision-making capacity.”

In the Conxo center, containment measures – with drugs or tying up residents – are applied in similar numbers to men and women, “despite the fact that they generally cause less damage.” Experts consider that the data on women “are not entirely reliable”, but show that when they are subjected to these measurements it is an average of 16 hours. The one that has suffered the most restraints – more than 30 in the last two years – sleeps in a bed with permanent straps in the immobilization room, according to the NPM’s account. His diagnosis is “mental retardation” and he has been in the psychiatric hospital for more than 19 years, despite the fact that “in the 2020 organizational memory of the hospital it is stated that it would not be a suitable place for people with ‘mental retardation'”. The Ombudsman requests additional information to clarify this case.

Inequalities in staff

The report also draws conclusions from his interviews with the center’s staff. It is “overwhelmingly and disproportionately” female in the categories of nursing and auxiliary health technicians -101 women compared to 11 men-, but among doctors and in management positions they are the majority. In conversations with residents and workers, the text continues, “a very vertical functioning” of the team is evidenced, with little coordination between disciplines and that does not integrate patients or family associations to make decisions.



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