Staunton, June 13 – For the first four months of 2015, mortality rates rose 3.7 percent over the same period a year earlier, an increase that Vladimir Putin said reflected his success in boosting life expectancies – older people die more often than younger ones – but that others have blamed on combat losses in Ukraine, unhealthy lifestyles, and medical mistakes.
Veronika Skvortsova, Russia’s health minister, says that Rosstat statistics show that “half of the increase of mortality is connected with the age structure of the population and its aging,” but that leaves the other half to be explained. And now Moscow has found a new place to assign blame: Russia’s regions (rg.ru/2015/06/10/smertnost-site.html and amic.ru/news/308020/).
While some of this reflects the impact of flu, upper respiratory infections and pneumonia which are more prevalent in the first quarter of the year, much of the increase is the product of medical facilities “where a single concrete individual is working” and is not being adequately supervised, according to Skvortsova.
That is shown, she says, by the fact that mortality rates vary widely among the country’s regions. Where supervision is better, death rates are lower; where it is less good, they are higher. What neither she nor Moscow acknowledges is that cutbacks in the center’s funding of regions has led to cutbacks in medical services and that almost certainly is the major explanation.
There are of course others. Officials in Leningrad oblast complain that their rising mortality rates reflect a tendency of people in neighboring regions to come there for treatment and often to die. The governor suggested that such “migrants” account for 11 percent of all deaths in his oblast (doctorpiter.ru/articles/11946/).