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What should you do if health professional refuse to provide medical care and services?

The right to healthcare and medical aid is guaranteed by the Ukrainian legislature (Art. 49 of the Constitution of Ukraine). However, unfortunately, cases occur when citizens face refusal by healthcare providers to deliver medical care, including hospitalization.

What do you need to remember and what shall you do in such situations?

  1. First of all, you need to know the meaning of the term “healthcare”. According to Article 3 of the Law of Ukraine “The fundamentals of the legislature of Ukraine concerning healthcare” (the Fundamentals), healthcare means the activities of professionally trained healthcare providers aiming at prevention, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation in connection with diseases, trauma, poisoning and pathological condition and in connection with pregnancy and childbirth.
  2. Healthcare includes emergency care; primary healthcare; secondary (specialized) healthcare (outpatient); tertiary (highly specialized) healthcare (inpatient); palliative care.
  3. Each patient is entitled to admission to any health facility of choice if is it justified by the patient’s condition and the facility has the capacities to ensure appropriate treatment (Art. 38 of the Foundations).
  4. In addition, according to the Law of Ukraine “On emergency medical care”, any person in need of emergency medical care has the right to seek emergency care in the closest emergency (urgent) medical care unit or another health facility able to provide such medical care.

According to the Law of Ukraine “On emergency medical care”, an emergency condition is a sudden deterioration of physical or mental wellbeing posing a direct and imminent threat to the life and health of the person or other people occurring as a result of a disease, trauma, poisoning or other intrinsic or external causes (Art.1 of the Law). A refusal to admit a patient in need of emergency medical care or untimely provision of emergency medical care to a patient in need of such care is unacceptable and will result in criminal charges against the healthcare provider whose duties include providing such care, for failure to provide medical care to a patient if the healthcare provider knows that this may have severe consequences for the patient (Art. 139 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

  • A word about current (non-emergency) needs of hospital treatment. The Law of Ukraine “On freedom of movement and free choice of domicile in Ukraine” does not associate medical care provision by health facilities or provision of any services with the person’s registration or residence address. This means that a person who is registered at one address (for example, in a rayon center/in another oblast) and lives at another address (in the oblast center/another town), is not deprived of the right to seek medical care in a health facility at the person’s actual living address requesting qualified medical care. For that such a person should approach the chief physician of the health facility of choice with a written request of registration with the health facility at the place of actual residence which is their legal obligation.

 Conduct of the client whose right to healthcare is violated.

  • First of all, it is worthwhile to highlight to the offending health professional that he/she is violating your right to healthcare guaranteed by the acting legislature of Ukraine (mentioned above) and demand respect of human rights.
  • You can approach the chief physician of the health facility with a written statement (complaint) requesting to remedy the violation of the right to healthcare and medical services. The facility administration is obliged to register the complaint and issue it an incoming number.
  • If, despite the expectations, these efforts were not successful (although such cases are not common in fact), you need to apply to the city or even oblast health administration: with a written report (complaint) about chief physician’s failure to react demanding to remedy the violation of your right to healthcare and medical services. The complaint must be duly registered and responded. Usually this is enough to correct the situation.
  • If the client remains unsatisfied, he/she can complain to the Ministry of Health or apply to court.
  • In case any consequences occur resulting from refusal to admit the patient requiring emergency medical care or untimely provision of emergency medical care to the patient in need of such care, a complaint can be submitted to the National Police of Ukraine based on Art. 139 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine for failure to provide care to a patient by a healthcare worker obliged to provide such care without a valid reason, if the healthcare worker is aware that such failure can result in severe consequences for the patient.