Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 04, 2005 (case PENTIACOVA AND 48 OTHERS v. MOLDOVA)

Appeal Nbr:14462/03
Resolution Date:January 04, 2005
 
FREE EXCERPT

FOURTH SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 14462/03

by Valentina PENTIACOVA and Others

against Moldova

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 4 January 2005 as a Chamber composed of:

Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,

Mr J. Casadevall,

Mr R. Maruste,

Mr K. Traja,

Mr S. Pavlovschi,

Mr L. Garlicki,

Mr J. Borrego Borrego, judges,

and Mrs F. Elens-Passos, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 30 April 2003,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicants, Valentina Pentiacova, Nichifor Avasiloaie, Nicolaie Bugan, Alexandru Bulgac, Vladimir Caranfil, Ion Ceban, Chiril Cebotari, Valeriu Cerniavschi, Mihail Chircu, Galina Chiriacova, Tamara Ciorba, Alina Condrat, Tatiana Costina, Olesea Frija, Natalia Ghetmacenco, Mihail Grozov, Maria Gudumac, Adriana Hristiniuc, Natalia Iacovenco, Ana Istratieva, Maria Lozinschi, Ana Lungu, Diana Maliavca, Petru Meriacri, Tudor Meriacri, Iacob Mocanu, Veaceaslav Muşchei, Victor Neagov, Iacob Ninescu, Ion Nicolaev, Mihai Nicolaev, Constantin Novac, Eugenia Paşcova, Ghenadie Petrea, Eduard Porumb, Eduard Pritula, Nicolae Pruteanu, Ion Puşcaş, Maria Serbu, Mariana Solomon, Chiril Spirliev, Rita Stoian, Gavriil Tofan, Anatol Ţoncu, Dumitru Tulbu, Ion Vacari, Ion Vartic, Dumitru Zlatov and Victor Zorilă are Moldovan nationals, who live in the Republic of Moldova. Adriana Hristiniuc is the daughter of Andrei Hristiniuc, who was a patient of the Spitalul Clinic Republican haemodialysis section for about two years, but who died on 11 July 2004. Ana Lungu is the widow of Gheorghe Lungu, who was a patient of the SCR haemodialysis section for about ten years, but who died on 25 April 2003. Ion Vacari is the widower of Lidia Vacari, who was a patient of the SCR haemodialysis section, but who died on an unspecified date. They are represented before the Court by Mr Vladislav Gribincea, acting on behalf of 'Lawyers for Human Rights', a non-governmental organisation based in Chişinău. The respondent Government are represented by their Agent, Mr V. Pârlog, Ministry of Justice.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

1.  Background

All the applicants (except Adriana Hristiniuc, Ana Lungu and Ion Vacari, see above) are suffering from chronic renal failure (a gradual and progressive loss of the ability of the kidneys to excrete waste, concentrate urine, and conserve electrolytes) and consequently they need haemodialysis (a medical procedure that uses a machine to filter waste products from the bloodstream and to restore the blood's normal constituents).

They are all disabled on account of their disease and receive State disability allowances which vary between 60 Moldovan Lei (MDL) and MDL 450.

The applicants have their haemodialysis done at a Chişinău hospital called Spitalul Clinic Republican (the 'SCR'), where approximately one hundred patients are treated. The applicants submit that before 1997 the expense of their haemodialysis was covered entirely by the hospital. Between 1997 and 2004 the hospital's budget was reduced and only strictly necessary procedures and medication were provided free to them. From 1 January 2004 the situation became more or less identical to that existing before 1997, with the exception of the frequency of haemodialysis sessions (see below).

There are four more hospitals in the Republic of Moldova that perform haemodialysis - another hospital in Chişinău called Spitalul de Urgenţă (the 'SU'), and hospitals in Bălţi, Cahul and Comrat. The applicants submit that, unlike the SCR, the SU was financed from the budget of the Chişinău Municipality and therefore always provided its patients with all the necessary medication free. They also argue that there are administrative barriers presenting the applicants who do not live in Chişinău from receiving treatment at the SU. As to the other three hospitals, the applicants submit that the quality of the haemodialysis treatment provided by them is inferior to that of the SCR.

2.  The parties' submissions as to what is necessary for haemodialysis treatment and as to what is available at the SCR

According to the parties, the following are necessary for haemodialysis treatment: a haemodialysis package, heparin, physiological saline, syringes, CaCl (10%), glucose (10-40%), euphylin 2.4%, alcohol and vitamins. There are also some medications and accessories which are necessary in some cases, namely riboxin, antibiotics, plaster, gauze and blood.

According to the applicants, before 1 January 2004 the hospital provided them free with the haemodialysis procedure and some basic medication and accessories such as the haemodialysis package, heparin, physiological saline, syringes and CaCl (10%). They had to pay for the rest of the necessary medication. In 2002, the applicants were allegedly told by the hospital authorities that the haemodialysis unit at the SCR might close due to insufficient financing from the State budget. The applicants were forced to protest before the Ministry of Finance and in front of the President's residence, and consequently the hospital continued to provide them with haemodialysis, but, as previously, without full coverage.

After 1 January 2004 the hospital started to provide them free with almost all the necessary medication. The hospital does not provide them, however, with a drug called Eprex, which operates to raise the haemoglobin level, or with calcium, Amonosteril and Ketosteril. In order to increase their level of haemoglobin, the applicants are usually given blood transfusions. Before 1 January 2004 the applicants were not provided with free blood by the hospital. After that date the hospital started to provide free blood, but the applicants still have to wait until it becomes available. Since they sometimes need blood urgently, they have to buy it. The applicants also submit that no medical investigation for the determination of anaemia status is performed at the SCR and that the doctors only establish the existence of anaemia.

According to the Government, before 1 January 2004 the treatment of the applicants was carried out in accordance with the provisions of Law no. 267 of 3 February 1999 on the minimum of medical assistance guaranteed by the State (see below). In accordance with that law, the applicants received only the strictly necessary medication free. They had to buy the rest of the medication prescribed by their doctors. Haemodialysis treatment has never been stopped and has never been refused to anybody. According to the official documents provided by the Government, in 2003 the haemodialysis section of the SCR received MDL 5,685,729 (the equivalent of 354,000 euros (EUR) at the time) from the State budget.

On 1 January 2004 a new medical insurance system was implemented in Moldova and in accordance with the new legislation the applicants started to receive all the necessary medication free (see below). If a patient needs some particular medication not provided by the State, then the doctor recommends that the patient buys it. According to a directive of the Ministry of Health of 12 March 2004, the State spends MDL 322 (the equivalent of EUR 20 at the time) for one day of hospitalisation, MDL 688 (the equivalent of EUR 44 at the time) for a haemodialysis of the first degree and MDL 1,207 (the equivalent of EUR 78 at the time) for a haemodialysis of the second degree.

According to the applicants, in the USA, Canada and EU countries, renal failure patients receive nine hours of haemodialysis in three sittings per week. The same practice was followed in Moldova before 1997. After 1997 the practice changed and the patients started to receive eight hours of haemodialysis in two sittings per week. 'Only applicants that are in bad physical condition or ill are allowed to undergo the third haemodialysis permanently'.

The Government submitted a document from the haemodialysis section of the SCR according to which, in July 2003, twenty-six applicants underwent two haemodialysis sessions per week; four applicants underwent three sessions per week and the rest two or three haemodialysis sessions per week. According to the Government, the number of haemodialysis sessions is determined in each case by the doctors, who consider the gravity of the disease, the presence or absence of complications and the results of laboratory investigations.

In their application lodged on 30 April 2003 the applicants submitted that there were twenty haemodialysis machines at the SCR which were all old and in a bad technical condition. In their observations of 1 September 2004 they submitted that before their application was lodged with the Court half of the haemodialysis machines were in bad technical condition; however, they had been replaced after the application was lodged with the Court on 30 April 2003. They also stated: 'In 2001 the majority of the haemodialysis machines performed dialysis on an acetate basis....

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