stated: "Information about a patient is confidential. Medical establishments are no longer required to report to the police about patients who are hospitalised due to a drug overdose. However, if the law enforcement organs request this information, medical establishments will provide it to them." Mr Sergeenko also stated: "This decree has resulted in a decrease in risks." Presumably, the Minister was referring to a decrease in the risks of drug users further damaging their health and a decrease in the cases of infringement of their confidentiality.
According to Decree N239/N of the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia issued on 5 December 2000, medical establishments were obliged to report cases of drug overdose to the police. The use of drugs in Georgia constitutes a criminal offense. Drug users generally do not call an ambulance in the case of a drug overdose in order to keep their activities from the police even though this puts a person’s life at risk. On 11 August 2014, the aforementioned decree was amended according to which providers of medical services are no longer obliged to report cases of drug overdose to the police. Additionally, the costs of treating drug overdoses are covered by the Universal Healthcare Programme.FactCheck
sought to learn how efficiently this system works.
We interviewed the Head of the non-governmental organisation, New Vector, Giorgi Mchedlishvili, whose organisation works to protect the rights of drug users. According to Mr Mchedlishvili’s assessment: "The Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs’ decree did decrease the aforementioned risks to some extent. However, the problem remains. The decree alone is not a guarantee that if a patient calls for the ambulance, it will not be followed by the patrol police. And, if the ambulance is followed by the patrol police, there is no guarantee that he will not be taken to a drug testing centre. I know these types of facts personally. I witnessed four cases of drug overdoses lately and in all four cases, the ambulance vehicles were followed by the patrol police." Mr Mchedlishvili also added: "The police probably get information about drug overdoses from 112 [emergency service]. Additionally, the district police officer is mostly well aware about these cases and, therefore, law enforcement agencies have no difficulty in obtaining this sort of information."The Head of the non-governmental organisation, Akhali Gza, Dali Usharidze, in her interview with FactCheck,
stated: "In spite of the decree, which theoretically decreases the risks, I have information from our beneficiaries (drug users) that they refrain from calling the ambulance in the cases of drug overdoses because, in most cases, the ambulance is followed by the patrol police. The police might not start prosecution against the individual or take him to the drug testing facility the same day, but they do obtain very important information which can possibly be used in the future to arrest the drug user. Therefore, drug users try to help each other independently. In any case, when a person needs emergency medical service, he calls 112 and the operator decides whether or not to inform the police as well. Usually, when there is a case of a drug overdose, nobody says that is what it is. However, this is not important because if patients are at gathering places, 112 informs both the ambulance and the police. Additionally, if the police have a reasonable suspicion, they are allowed to request information about a specific individual from the medical establishment."FactCheck
also contacted the Georgia Emergency and Operative Response Centre (112) in order to further understand which cases are sent to the ambulance as well as the police at the same time. 112 replied that they were not allowed to disclose this type of information.
The results of the Minister’s decree could be better assessed by analysing the statistics of calls to the ambulance in the cases of drug overdoses. Unfortunately, these statistics do not exist.
Conclusion According to the decree of the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs issued in 2014, medical establishments are no longer required to report cases of drug overdoses to the police. However, in the cases of reasonable suspicion, the police are allowed to obtain information about the diagnosis of any patient from medical establishments. In their interviews with FactCheck, representatives of non-governmental organisations protecting the rights of drug users stated that in spite of the aforementioned decree, both patients and their friends or relatives refrain from calling the ambulance because in most cases it is followed by the police. They also assert that the police receive respective information from the Georgia Emergency and Operative Response Centre (112).