Roma Discriminated against in Access to Health Care in Serbia and Montenegro
10 May 2003
There are widespread reports that Roma suffer discrimination in access to health care services and that some doctors refuse to provide services to Romani patients. Additionally, many Roma cannot exercise their right to state-provided health care because they lack personal documents demanded by medical authorities. This problem is particularly widespread among displaced Roma from Kosovo.
In one instance of refusal of care, a local doctor allegedly declined many times to see the children of Ms Dragica Jovanović, a 28-year-old Romani woman from Novi Sad, the most recent incident taking place in early October 2002. According to Ms Jovanović's testimony to the ERRC, the doctor repeatedly instructed her to go to another health facility further away instead; the doctors at the other institution reportedly sent her back. The claims of Ms Jovanović were corroborated by many other Romani mothers living in the same settlement, who testified that the same doctor had subjected them, on various occasions, to similar treatment.
There are also numerous allegations that emergency aid teams refuse to come to Romani settlements. On October 14, 2002, N.N., a Romani person from the Bedem Romani settlement in Kikinda, northern Serbia, testified to the ERRC that a day earlier, an ambulance had been called six times for an elderly woman in the settlement. In the end, the telephone dispatcher for the ambulance said that the woman would have to take a taxi to the hospital because there were no available ambulances. According to N.N., this happens often. In Vranje, many Roma allege that, as a general rule, after hearing the address of the caller (easily identified as an address of Roma), health authorities refuse to send an ambulance. On August 22, 2002, Ms Neda Mehmeti informed the ERRC, in partnership with the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), that frequently, health officials tell Roma calling for emergency health services to call the police instead.
In the family of Mr Meta Flamur, a 43-year-old Romani man from Kosovo living in Berane, Montenegro, most children are reportedly sick with chest diseases due to humidity in the houses. When the Berane camp for Kosovo Romani displaced persons was first opened, there was a doctor; this was no longer the case as of the date of the ERRC visit on November 12, 2002. Out of five children of Mr Djuka Imeraj, living in the settlement named "Riverside", none were vaccinated at the time of the ERRC visit in November 2002. These situations are reported to be commonplace among many Romani families in Serbia and Montenegro.
In accordance with Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Yugoslavia succeeded to on March 12, 2001, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health." Article 12 (2) further states, "The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: [?] (d) The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness."