Romani baby dies in Croatia after medical workers refuse to come to Romani settlement

10 April 2001

On February 9, 2001, in the Romani settlement of Trnovec, near Čakovec, north-western Croatia, the baby of a Romani couple, Mirko and Verica Oršuš, was stillborn after the local emergency medical team refused their calls for help. The Zagreb daily newspaper, Vjesnik, reportedon February 11, 2001, that a neighbour had called the emergency medical technicians in the neighbouring town of Čakovec when 20-year-old Ms Oršuš went into labour, but was reportedly told that the team would not come, and that Ms Oršuš should be driven to the local medical centre, after which the person on the other end of the line hung up. Mr Oršuš called the same medical centre, and after he told them he did not have a car, according to Vjesnik, the staff mockingly told him to put his wife into a wheel-barrow and wheel her to the medical centre. Another neighbour called the medical centre in Varaždin, another nearby town, and was reportedly told that they were not obliged to cover the settlement at Trnovec, after which the neighbour called the local police and requested that they call an emergency team. By the time an ambulance finally arrived, Ms Oršuš had given birth on the floor of their house and the child was dead.

The Zagreb daily newspaper Večernji list reported on February 13 that the ensuing internal investigation at the Čakovec medical centre established that they received the first call for help from the Oršuš family at 6:43 on the morning of February 9, and that the ambulance was finally sent out at 8:13 AM, after altogether five calls to the Čakovec medical centre for assistance. The Croatian Helsinki Committee has reported that the two staff members responsible for this tragedy were merely moved to other posts within the medical centre. However, Večernji list reported on February 21 that the local police will press criminal charges against the two employees for medical negligence, as the autopsy established that the baby died due to a complication during birth. The ERRC is pursuing legal action in connection with the case.

(Croatian Helsinki Committee, Večernji list, Vjesnik)


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