ENNHRI’s Project Coordinator, Ciara O’Dwyer held an interview with Silvija Trgovec Greif, Legal Adviser, to find out more about the different activities the Office of the Ombudswoman of the Republic of Croatia has been carrying out, and what the situation on the ground is regarding long-term care of older persons in the country.

How and why did your Office get involved in ENNHRI’s Older Persons project?

The rights of older persons have been always a part of our agenda. Taking part in this Project empowered us for engagement on this topic. By participating in the Project we fully became aware of the relevant international human rights standards. Participation in the Project gave a push towards entering into residential long-term care settings, allowing us to meet with the users at the spot, as well as to identify good practices and challenges.

Why is the Project important to you personally?

Participation in the monitoring process enlarged my personal knowledge and professional capacity. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to hear about experiences of colleagues from other similar institutions, the challenges which they meet in their daily work, as well as to exchange different knowledges. I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people, both among colleagues, and in the long-term care settings that we visited during the monitoring process.

How did the pilot monitoring work go?

To prepare ourselves, we organized a focus group gathering experts for LTC-related issues who presented best practice examples in terms of protection of human rights of older persons in LTC, as well as relevant challenges and barriers they had to face in that respect. We then established a special Working Group within our Office chaired by the Ombudswoman herself. We visited five public residential care settings for older persons in total. The process was a lot of work but very worthwhile.

What are the main human rights issues that you identified?

Insufficiency of capacity is one of the initial problems when talking about long-term care for older persons. Waiting lists for public care homes have grown to 17,000 people, which means that the average waiting-time for an individual is between four and eight years.

Staff knowledge of human rights is basic but they are committed to their work and they respect their beneficiaries’ privacy and dignity. The majority of residents expressed their satisfaction with the provided services. However, should a resident have a complaint, there is no complaint procedure and it is handled very informally, which is a deficiency in the system. There is also a strong focus on responding to medical needs and not much evidence of a holistic approach.

What is the most interesting thing about the Project for you?

That’s a tricky question! It’s not easy to limit myself to just one thing! It was a two years process and we started from one idea without proper knowledge about what we were going to find. After doing all the work, we identified a large number of issues which must be developed in the coming years.