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Seznam Zpráva has at its disposal documents from two inspections that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs carried out in mid-June in two social services of the Hvězda home for the elderly in Zlín.
The inspection teams confirmed the practice described by Nauzal based on the testimony of relatives of clients and ex-employees, that the management of Hvězda conditioned the acceptance of a senior citizen on the payment of tens of thousands of crowns in cash.
The first inspection team of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications states in the document that “employees No. 1 to No. 3 stated that a sponsorship donation is required from each newly arrived client, which is a condition for concluding a contract for the provision of social services. This practice was also confirmed in interviews with clients No. 1, 2, 4 and 5,” described the inspectors.
As the result of the inspection shows, the amount of the sponsorship was determined by one specific person and was set between 50 and 70 thousand one-time. According to the client’s statement, it was always a gift contract.
“My daughter arranged it for me, she paid 50,000 crowns and they took me within an hour,” one of them told the inspectors. “If I bring the registration fee (a financial donation), I can start within a month. The registration fee was 30 or 50 thousand, I don’t remember. It was said bluntly and they had a donation contract for it,” confided another client of Hvězda. The seniors also talked about the reasons why they paid such a high amount. “Because they had to go somewhere and there was no place else. If they didn’t pay, they wouldn’t take them,” they said in an interview with ministry officials.
Hvězda, a registered institution, is focused on providing social, health and complementary services in a non-profit way. As a non-state medical facility, it operates a hospice care center and a Home for the elderly and a Home with a special regime.
The capacity of the Star is 59 beds with a special regime and 14 hospice beds. Clients are seniors with chronic mental illness (people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia) and people with other disabilities. The legal form “registered institute” means that the institute can only use the profit from the activity to support the activity for which it was founded and to cover the costs of its own administration.
Gift as a condition of acceptance
Seznam The reports wanted to inquire about the findings of the ministerial inspection of director Miroslava Kalivodová, but as in previous cases, they did not succeed. The director hung up after introducing the reporter. She last commented on the donations to the editors in June.
“It is not true. A financial gift is not a condition for us, that is why it is a sponsorship gift. In many cases where someone gave a gift and then changed their mind, we always returned the gift. The criminal police in Zlín also investigated this on one report and did not record any wrongdoing on my part. Otherwise, they would have closed us down,” explained Miroslava Kalivodová at the time.
And this despite the fact that the Seznam Zpráv extra said on the phone several times, as you can hear in the phone call, which is part of the text, that the donation is a condition of admission to Hvězda.
The editors spoke with more than twelve former employees who worked at Hvězda in various high positions during the last five years. Seznam Zpravna verified their identities and employment contracts, the ex-employees did not want to publish their names out of fear of possible revenge on the part of director Miroslava Kalivodová. Their testimony coincides with the conclusions of the inspectors of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and they added a few specific personal memories.
“Initially, 40,000 was paid for a double room, 60,000 for a single room. Now the ‘registration fee’ has risen to 80,000,” the former Hvězda social worker told the editors. “The price was determined by Kalivodová herself and based on the car the relative drives, what she looks like and also according to the answers to the questions you have on the recording,” she refers to the interview of the Seznam Zpráv extra, which she conducted with the director Miroslava Kalivodová about the possibility of placing her fictional grandmother in the Star.
“She always asked those people if they were a widow or a widower, what kind of relatives they had, who would inherit from them, if they owned a house, an apartment, how much money, and so on,” she says, mentioning the classic “interview” ritual.
Another former social worker and later manager at Hvězda confirms that the main motivation has always been money. “I remember that an 85-year-old grandmother came there, crying at the reception desk, and Mirka (director Kalivodová) told her in a calm voice that she didn’t care, let her bring 80,000 and then they would take her grandfather,” she recounts an experience a few years old. The lady was said to be from Otrokovice. “Mirka called someone, who took her home to Otrokovice, grandmother brought 80,000 in cash and he was accepted. She had no compassion,” recalls her former boss.
Her colleague, working in the administrative department at the time in the building in Malenovice near Zlín, reports a similar case. “I was going to work, I see that Kalivodová’s driver was leaving with some lady, then they came back and the driver says that we only have morning reception. Kalivodová sent the lady to the nearest ATM, which was in Tesco in Malenovice, and only when she brought the cash did the contract begin to be drawn up,” she recalls.
Police: No crime occurred
According to the conclusions of the inspectors, there was a violation of the Act on Social Services at Hvěz. Jiří Horecký, president of the Association of Social Service Providers, shared the same opinion with Seznam Zprávám.
“Conditioning admission to a home for the elderly on the handing over of a donation is unacceptable not only from a moral and ethical point of view, but it is in direct contradiction to the Social Services Act,” he said. And it doesn’t matter if it is a subsidized organization of the city, the region or a private entity, which is Hvězda.
According to Petr Šustek, who works at the Department of Civil Law and is the coordinator of the Health Law Center at the Law Faculty of the Charles University in Prague, breaking the law does not necessarily mean a criminal offense. This must be proven by the police.
“If the ‘gift’ was only used to enrich the representatives of the provider without any consideration, then we could reach the level of criminal law, specifically the acceptance of a bribe,” believes Šustek, otherwise a specialist in health law and a member of the Legislative Council of the Government in 2014-2018 .
Police officers from the Economic Crime Department of the Regional Directorate of the Police of the Zlín Region found nothing of the sort.
“We checked the case, secured the necessary materials and, after evaluating all the documents, found no facts that would indicate that a criminal offense had been committed, therefore we did not initiate criminal proceedings and postponed the matter,” wrote Seznam Zprávám spokeswoman Monika Kozumplíková.
“Regarding the acceptance of donations, all financial donations were given voluntarily by clients on the basis of a donation agreement and were used for the operation of the facility. Although this behavior may appear unethical, it is not corruption or any other criminal activity,” she clarified.
Will the dispute go to court?
The Zlín region submitted a request to cancel Hvězda’s registration in August, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs granted it in early October. The reason was failure to prove debt-free status. Hvězda owed (among other things) 6.2 million crowns to the Zlín District Social Security Administration for non-payment of insurance premiums for employees. Six dozen clients should leave home by December 31, and the Zlín Region will take care of them.
According to the decision of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there is no appeal against the decision. The director, Miroslava Kalivodová, still wants to overturn the verdict and said she has sent a request for a review to the ministry. In addition, he intends to challenge the authorities’ decision in court. However, the Zlín region will not wait for the result and is preparing for the transfer of senior citizens.
“Currently, a so-called social investigation must take place. We need to find out what kind of care Hvézda’s existing clients require, and based on that we will look for suitable replacement facilities for them. We have prepared several variants on which we are cooperating with municipalities and social service providers in the Zlín Region,” Hana Ančincová, the statutory deputy governor, who is in charge of social affairs in the Zlín Region, told Nauzal. “We’ll take care of them anyway,” she promised.