Widespread abuse of disabled residents at Hungarian institution

A public institution for the disabled in the southwestern Hungarian village of Mozsgó (population 1,000) is under scrutiny after a complaint detailed widespread abuse of the intellectually disabled residents by staff. Hungary’s Népszava daily reported on a detailed complaint and video evidence documenting the physical abuse and the overall inhumane treatment of residents. In one of the videos, produced with a cellphone, a male patient lying in bed is seen being beaten by staff. In another video submitted to the local ombudsman, an employee wearing a white coat is bathing a male resident while hitting him numerous times. At the same time and standing in the room, is a completely naked female resident. According to the complaint, it is not uncommon for staff to “sweep down” the residents using a broom prior to bathing them. Additionally, staff often use a single sponge to wash multiple residents.

The submitted complaint also notes that the institution, which houses 132 residents, lacks even the most basic items for daily hygiene–for instance, there is no hand sanitizer nor soap readily available and 60 male residents must share two razors. Equally disturbing is the note that the home only has a handful of toothbrushes. In order to occasionally clean these, staff place them in a bag with holes and put them into the washing machine.

Mozsgó’s public institution for the disabled.

Népszava learned that following the complaint, inspectors from the ombudsman’s office visited the institution unannounced and discovered that residents were only give a bath every three or four days, and that three out of four rooms used for the bathing of residents did not even have running hot water. Confirming some of the findings of the complaint, the investigation uncovered that the bathrooms did not have soap nor toilet paper. Also in line with the complaint, the investigators noted that the bathing facilities had only two sponges and these were used to bathe multiple residents. The employees argued that they always disinfected them between baths.

Although the video recordings depicting the beating of patients were clearly produced in rooms that the institution’s staff were able to identify, none of the employees could confirm the identities of the perpetrators of the abuse. The ombudsman is now relying on staff to identify those involved in the incidents and to ensure that abuse does not occur again.

There have been few reported instances of abuse in Hungarian institutions to date–not because abuse does not occur, but because it goes unreported and is almost always swept under the rug. A closer look at institutions in Hungary, including churches, would reveal the extent to which power imbalances have created a fertile soil for abuse to flourish and to remain unreported.

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