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Krakow. Cameras recorded conversations at Żeromski Hospital. Patient Rights Ombudsman responds

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The Patient Rights Ombudsman Bartłomiej Chmielowiec initiated proceedings after the tvn24.pl article concerning illegal audio recording by cameras at the Żeromski Hospital in Kraków. The illegally “listening” cameras to patients and doctors were probably located in the hospital's Emergency Department. According to the ombudsman, it is possible that “the hospital uses practices that violate the collective rights of patients”.

In a report for TVN24, journalist Mateusz Kudła revealed information about irregularities that could have occurred at the Żeromski Hospital in Kraków – one of the largest medical centres in Małopolska – in connection with with disappearing narcotic drugs and a doctor administering drugs to his IV drip while seeing patients. At the same time, it was revealed that in the hospital emergency department cameras illegally eavesdropped on staff and patients.

According to the regulations, the hospital can record images, but not sound.

In the matter of sound recording, the Patient Rights Ombudsman Bartłomiej Chmielowiec took action, who – as informed by legal counsel, expert in patient rights, attorney Jolanta Budzowska – initiated proceedings regarding “practices violating the collective rights of patients”. This concerns recording conversations held by patients without their knowledge and consent. Chmielowiec informed that he made the decision, among other things, after our material.

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Żeromski Hospital in KrakowTVN24

Cameras Recorded Conversations. What Threats to the Hospital?

“It has been plausibly established that the hospital is using practices that violate the collective rights of patients to respect for their privacy and dignity during the provision of health services,” we read in the letter from the Patient Rights Ombudsman. He added that “the proceedings are still ongoing, and evidence is currently being collected in the case.”

Attorney Jolanta Budzowska emphasizes in an interview with tvn24.pl that the Ombudsman's proceedings are related to Article 64 of the Patient Rights Act. According to this provision, if the Ombudsman finds that collective patient rights have been violated, he may order such practices to be discontinued or indicate actions “necessary to eliminate the effects of the violation” of patients' rights. However, if the hospital does not comply with the decision of the Patient Rights Ombudsman, the facility may face a fine of up to PLN 500,000.

The hospital director explains

The director of the Żeromski hospital, Lech Kucharski, when asked in March about cameras recording sound, pointed out that the monitoring is limited only to the communication routes and also operates in the hospital emergency department. – The previous management, taking into account the suggestions of the staff, introduced a video and audio monitoring system due to the fact that the hospital emergency department is a place where various patients cross paths, often under the influence of alcohol or drugs – he explained. Later, in response to questions sent by TVN24 by e-mail, the director informed in April that “the hospital system did not previously record sound in a permanent manner”, but only “in the case of direct coercion applied to a patient”.

The previous director since 2016 was Jerzy Friediger. In an interview with tvn24.pl, the doctor emphasized, however, that the cameras were installed before he took over the position. – It was not my decision. I found out about the sound being recorded around 2021. I then ordered that the sound recording be stopped immediately – Friediger told us.

However, the recordings we have obtained, in which conversations between patients and doctors can be heard, come from 2023. They also do not contain, as Kucharski defended, situations requiring the use of direct coercion.

The facility is inspected by the Krakow City Hall, which supervises the hospital’s operation.

Main image source: TVN24

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