Hungarian language rights in hospitals: health ministry defaulted ombudsman says

The ombudsman’s office is waiting for an explanation from the Ministry of Health as to why it has still not worked out the implementation instructions of the law that provides for native language usage in hospitals and social institutions.

Per the legal act passed in 2017 and that went into effect on January 1st, 2018, medical and social service providers are obligated to employ staff who speak the local minority’s native language. Such staff must be available if the proportion of the minority group reaches 20% of the population within a given settlement or if their absolute number exceeds 5,000.

However, according to deputy-ombudsman Zsolt Molnár’s statement to Maszrol.ro last week, aside from a few unique exceptions, this law is inapplicable because the health ministry hasn’t worked out its implementation instructions, namely the detailed regulation as to how this law should be put into practice. Earlier this month, Molnár, speaking in the name of the ombudsman’s office, called the health ministry to account in regard to the ministry’s default.

“This is a really annoying default. We are continuously talking about how in Romania the laws are not applied. This legal act is the most spectacular example of this.”

– Zsolt Molnár said, adding that the ombudsman’s office expects an answer to their submission within 30 days. And if the Ministry of Health will not give a satisfying explanation for the default, the ombudsman’s office will call the ministry–via a recommendation–to get to work.

“We will be watching how our recommendation will be put into practice, and if we see that within a reasonable time frame no progress will be achieved, we will turn to the prime minister.” – the deputy-ombudsman said, explaining the procedure.

Last year, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) also highlighted that the law is not applied by medical institutions. Member of Parliament (MP) Erika Benkő from Sepsiszentgyörgy/Sfântu Gheorghe introduced in an interpellation the case of a 12-year-old Szekler basketball player from Kézdivásárhely/Târgu Secuiesc. According to her coach, the girl was humiliated last February in a Temesvár/Timișoara hospital because she could not answer the doctor’s questions in Romanian.

“He wrote at the back of her medical record that a child who does not speak Romanian should not travel together with her team!”

-said the coach after the incident in February 2018.


Title image is illustration (Photo: Mediafax)


Author: Attila Szoó