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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 22:25 GMT
'Patients left to die' in Poland
The allegations have stunned Poland
The authorities in the Polish city of Lodz say they have gathered substantial evidence that ambulance crews deliberately let patients die in return for bribes from funeral service providers.

We are all shocked by these crimes, that are hard to imagine

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Local media reports said the emergency crews had administered the muscle relaxant drug Pavulon to speed up the patients' deaths and tipped off the funeral businesses.

"What the media have reported are facts," said a police spokesman in Lodz, Jaroslaw Berger.

He said police had gathered "substantial evidence" to support the allegations and that the first charges could be filed against suspects within days.

Suspicious dosage

The Health Ministry said some ambulance crews used extraordinarily high amounts of Pavulon. It has now banned ambulance crews from using the drug and has ordered an investigation into its use by emergency services.

Polish Deputy Health Minister Aleksander Nauman
Deputy Health Minister Nauman said Lodz ambulance crews used 'a lot' of the drug Pavulon
The Polish President, Alexander Kwasniewski, said the reports were "horrifying". Correspondents say the scandal has shocked the nation.

In an article in the leading Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, where the allegations first surfaced, the former head of the ambulance service in the city is quoted as saying that he was aware of the practice, although he denies any personal involvement.

The new head of the service said that if such practices still existed they would be stamped out.

Failing health service

The report also said that doctors on an emergency ward in Lodz had killed several seriously ill patients over the last decade.

The patients were allegedly killed by lethal doses of a drug that causes asphyxiation, after the families of the victims had agreed to use particular funeral homes.

The report said the funeral homes then paid the doctors more than $300 per corpse in return for the business.

The allegations are a blow for the reputation of Poland's health care system which is already struggling with a lack of money and ageing equipment.

The media speculates that it is this lack of funding that has left the service highly susceptible to bribery.

See also:

09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Poland
30 Nov 01 | Europe
EU fears divide Poland
05 Feb 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
Poland's neurologist turned pop singer
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