Poland’s Minister of Health, Adam Niedzielski, is facing criticism. Following his enforced legal changes regarding the issuance of electronic prescriptions for certain painkillers and psychotropic drugs, some doctors have begun informing the media that the reformed system is flawed and they are unable to prescribe medication for their patients. According to doctors and opposition politicians, the Minister of Health is alleged to have engaged in surveillance of his critics, exceeded his authority, and even violated doctor-patient confidentiality.
On Friday, Adam Niedzielski responded on Twitter to a report on TVN’s “Fakty” about difficulties with e-prescriptions. In his tweet, the Minister of Health mentioned the name of one of the doctors featured in the report.
He provided the doctor’s full name, place of work, and quoted his words, specifying what medication he had prescribed for himself.
“Dr. Piotr Pisula, the Municipal Hospital in Poznan, yesterday on ‘Fakty’ TVN ‘no patient could receive such a prescription.’ We checked. The doctor prescribed himself a prescription for a psychotropic and painkiller medication yesterday. These are the FACTS. What (other-ed.) lies await us today,” Niedzielski wrote on Twitter, disabling the comments on the tweet.
Niedzielski’s tweet sparked a wave of outrage among opposition politicians and doctors. The Chamber of Physicians and Dentists ( Naczelna Izba Lekarska – NIL ) a statement on Saturday.
“After analyzing the legal aspects of Minister Niedzielski’s posts on the Twitter/X portal, NIL (Chamber of Physicians and Dentists) informs that it will file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office due to the possibility of a crime committed by a public official…” stated the professional self-governing body.
They also mentioned that notifications about Niedzielski’s tweet would be sent to the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Patient Rights Advocate, and the Chief Inspector for Data Protection.
NIL’s president, Łukasz Jankowski, issued a statement on Saturday afternoon. According to the statement, “at the request of the President of the National Medical Council, the presidents of 100 scientific societies affiliated with the Conference of Presidents of Medical Societies will gather to discuss the crisis of trust in the confidentiality of medical documentation caused by the Minister of Health.”
In a subsequent statement published by NIL, Chamber President Łukasz Jankowski informed Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that the medical community has “ultimately lost trust” in the minister and “deems further cooperation impossible.” “I convey this information for appropriate use by the Prime Minister,” Jankowski concluded.
The letter specified that the complaint to the prosecutor’s office relates to a crime under Article 231 § 1 of the Criminal Code.
“Intrusive surveillance has occurred”
As emphasized on Polsat News by Michał Gontkiewicz, the chairman of NIL’s e-health team, “There was no violation of doctor-patient confidentiality because (Adam Niedzielski) is not a doctor.” “However, he clearly abused his position and capabilities to disclose non-public information, one of the most sensitive pieces of information, which is related to treatment. The surveillance that occurred shows the danger we are in,” he said.
“Talking about patient well-being here is a sarcastic joke from the minister. When he shows how he can find information about us with just one click,” he added.
According to him, until now, they believed that their information was safe, that it went to an encrypted server, and the Ministry did not have access to it. Data regarding mental health or any field related to it was considered confidential between the doctor and the patient.
“Now it has been ruined. It is impossible to cooperate with someone who systematically destroys the healthcare system under the pretext of fighting prescription machines,” he believes.
“It is easy to imagine a situation where the same information is used against someone who is an opponent of the government, such as an opposition politician. It’s a terrifying prospect,” he concluded.
Niedzielski: No violation of any regulations
Adam Niedzielski published a statement on Saturday afternoon, in which he argued that he acted “on the one hand, to defend the good name of the Ministry of Health, but above all, to defend the interests of the patient.”
He explained that the public disclosure of prescription information aimed to counter the unlawful dissemination of false data suggesting that it was not possible to prescribe psychotropic and painkiller medications.
“These pieces of information, conveyed on a nationwide TV station, caused unfounded anxiety among patients regarding the possibility of receiving the prescriptions they were entitled to. It required a decisive response and the elimination of uncertainty that had been sown by the doctor’s statements,” the minister evaluated.
He assured that no one had access to the records in the designated doctor’s account, and “no one interfered with that account.” “Thus, no violation of any regulations occurred,” he assessed, listing the individual regulations that authorize the Minister of Health to access information concerning the issuance of prescriptions pro auctore (where doctors prescribes a medicine to themselves).
“This access, which I emphasize once again, does not occur through an individual doctor’s or patient’s account. Finally, I firmly reiterate that my reaction was solely and exclusively in response to the doctor’s publicizing of falsehoods,” he concluded.
The Chamber of Physicians and Dentists (Polish: Naczelna Izba Lekarska – NIL) together with the regional chambers of physicians and dentists are the organizational bodies of the professional self-government of physicians and dental practitioners who are associated in the chambers with equal status. Chambers of physicians and dentists deal with all kinds of matters concerning the exercise of medicine and dentistry in Poland.