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Public Affairs 2008 / 1st Place / The Association to Support Leukemia Patients: A Court Case to Increase Governmental Financing for Medications
Categorie:Public politics campaignsTitle of campaign:The Association to Support Leukaemia Patients: A Court Case to IncreaseGovernment Financing for Medicationsshort common description of the campaign::There are some 4,000 leukaemia patients in Latvia today. Treatment iscomplicated and expensive, and government financing for the treatment remainsinadequate. Not all patients receive the medications which they need. In 2007 40patients got one of the most effective medications free of charge (state financed),in year 2008 - 39 patients, while there are approximately 250 patients who needthese medications.The agency has helped the Association for several years now to pursue dialoguewith government institutions on the subject of insufficient financing formedications. Unlike in past years, in 2008 the government did not plan to increaseoverall financing for medications.This meant that there was a need for a more radical approach so as to increasegovernment financing more substantially.Latvia is not a country in which patients go to court against the government veryoften. Indeed, no one has ever gone to court over the issue of availability ofmedications.
research work done during the campaign:The client: The Association to Support Leukaemia PatientsGoals:• To launch a court case for leukaemia patients against the state so as to ensuregreater state financing for these patients, as well as to focus public attention toproblems and shortcomings in the laws which apply to the availability ofmedications for leukaemia patients;• To attract financing for the court case;• To receive public support of leukaemia patients so that public pressure mightforce political decisions. During the research phase, the agency thoroughlyinvestigated the way in which decisions are taken on the subject of increasedfinancing for certain types of medical treatments.In consultation with attorneys, the agency studied methods via which the rights ofpatients could be supported through legal proceedings. The agency also studiedthe experience of other countries (Estonia, Lithuania, Great Britain and others) tosee how patient interests are defended there. Finally, the agency examined thosenon-governmental organisations from which financing could be sought out for thecourt case.
strategy:Strategy:• Informing the media and the broader public about the problem;• Using publicity and public response to attract financing for the court case;• Launching the court case.To distribute information about the problem, the agency made use of a traditionthat had been launched in the previous year - observing Leukaemia Day. Theevents this year were organised by the agency at two hospitals, involving patients,doctors and the media in the process.To ensure publicity and response for Leukaemia Day, the agency carried out amedia relations programme - extensive information, invitations to the media totake part in various events, as well as interviews with patients.To launch the court case, the agency found financing thanks to extensive publicresponse. Because the Association itself did not have the necessary money,partners were found to cover the legal proceedings. Attorneys agreed to handle thecase for a reduced fee (partly on a pro bono basis).The projectIn terms of information during Leukaemia Day, performances were staged forpatients at the paediatric and the adult hospital. The agency prepared an openletter to the Health Ministry, pointing out that there is insufficient financing forleukaemia treatments. Participants at the Leukaemia Day events signed the letter.
Children who are suffering from leukaemia joined with artists to paint porcelaincups. Students from the Smiltene Gymnasium had prepared greetings. They playedwith the children and helped them with the painting work. The cups were laterdelivered to patients and doctors at the Department of Haematology at the LinezersHospital. Media representatives participated in the event, as well.The Association presented a gift to the clinic at the Linezers Hospital - threelaptops for the transplantation unit so that patients would have links to the outerworld during their lengthy process of recuperation. A concert was staged.In terms of publicity and response (the media relations programme), the mediareceived information in advance of Leukaemia Day, with information about therelevant events, the diseases as such, and the availability of medications in Latvia.During the events, the media could interview patients and their relatives. Laterthere were individual media relations approaches, co-ordinating the emphasis ofproblems among leukaemia patients in the media. The media were also informedabout the possibility that the court case would be launched soon.In accumulating financing for the court process and launching the court case, theagency investigated whether the Soros Foundation would be interested. Itprepared a proposal on financing for two court processes at the AdministrativeDistrict Court. Thanks to the Soros Foundations support, the agency could workwith one of the best law firms in Latvia. The first lawsuit was filed toward the endof 2007.
Results of the campaign and evaluation::• The campaign has achieved its primary goal - with minimal resources, one of themembers of the Association has managed to launch a court case against the state.Even though such proceedings in Latvia tend to require years, the launch of thecase as such is very important in terms of facilitating greater financing for patients.• The agency attracted financing from the Soros Foundation.• The case attracted a great deal of media response, thus focusing public attentionon the problem.• The court case was declared to be a precedent in Latvian court practice.• The events at the hospitals and the court case attracted a great deal of publicattention.• The publicity attracted public attention - there were 5 television stories on all ofLatvias leading television stations, 3 radio stories, and 27 publications in the printand the Internet media.• The number of visitors to the Associations homepage has nearly doubled.Patients with similar problems have approached the Association.• After announcement of court case, various institutions pay attention to thelimited availability of medications for leukaemia patients. Ministry of Health isforced to explain the reasons why some patients lack medication. ParliamentHuman Rights and Public Affairs Committee has requested Ministry of Health towork out solutions that all leukaemia patients could receive medications when it is