Chancellor of Justice: Nursing home has no right to deprive people of liberty

Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder has sent a proposal to Pärnu-Jaagupi Nursing Home that they stop locking the doors of patients’ rooms. The Chancellor of Justice emphasises that Pärnu-Jaagupi Nursing Home and other similar institutions have no legal grounds to lock people in their rooms.

Advisers to the Chancellor of Justice visited Pärnu-Jaagupi Nursing Home in December 2013 to ascertain whether the home is continuing to lock the doors of patients’ rooms or clients’ bedrooms following an inspection carried out in 2012. The follow-up inspection revealed that there was still a bolt on the outside of one room’s door and that a key was in the lock on the outside of another room’s door. Several rooms in the home were also missing their inner door handles, meaning that the doors could be closed in such a manner that they could only be opened from the outside.

During their visit to the nursing home, the advisers to the Chancellor of Justice did not encounter any people who had been locked in their rooms, but the Chancellor of Justice feels that the bolt and doors with handles removed pose a threat that people’s fundamental rights and freedoms may be restricted without any authority to do so. Also, conversations with the nursing home’s staff and other circumstances (e.g. several missing door handles and keys on the outside of doors) suggest that people are indeed locked in their rooms.

“A person may only be deprived of their liberty in the cases and according to the procedure stipulated in law – the nursing home has no legal basis to deprive people of their liberty in this manner,” Teder explained. He added that depriving another person of their liberty without legal grounds is punishable pursuant to the Penal Code. The Chancellor of Justice therefore advises Pärnu-Jaagupi Nursing Home to consider the implementation of lawful measures that will help resolve issues arising with problematic clients in a legitimate manner.

The Chancellor of Justice proposed to Pärnu-Jaagupi Nursing Home that it cease the practice of locking the doors of rooms and to remove the bolt found on the outside of one door, and guarantee that the doors of all rooms can be opened from both inside and outside. “The nursing home must consider whether it is competent to provide a service that meets the needs of people,” Teder stated. “If it does not have the competency required to provide certain services, it must explain to those requesting the service what kind of service it is they need and where it is provided.”