Friday, November 6, 2015

Rising Mortality Rates in Russia ‘Direct Result’ of Putin’s Cutbacks in Medical Infrastructure, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 6 – “The growth of mortality among Russians in the first nine months of 2015 is “directly connected” with the reductions in access to medical care arising from Vladimir Putin’s euphemistically labelled “optimization” of that sector, according to the Zdorovye Foundation, which independently monitors health care in Russia.

            During the first three quarters of this year, Rosstat reported that the mortality rate among Russians had risen by 0.8 percent, from 13.1 deaths per 1000 in the same period in 2014 to 13.2 per thousand now, the product of larger increases in infectious diseases and problems with internal organs (

            Those increases and the increased mortality they resulted in, the Foundation says, are “the result of the poorly thought out optimization of health care” which is being implemented without consideration of its consequences and particularly about the ways in which shutting hospitals and clinics deprives many in the population of access to health care.

            As this “optimization” program has been carried out, the experts say, people have had to wait much longer to get appointments with doctors and specialists, necessary medical tests, and hospitalization.  Not only has that meant that illnesses are not treated in a timely fashion but also that once they are hospitalized, they are more likely to transmit their diseases to others, increasing lethality there.

            The foundation’s experts are especially concerned by Rosstat’s report about increases in mortality among those Russians diagnosed with cancer.  According to the health ministry’s chief oncologist, some 500,000 Russians are diagnosed with cancer each year, and “more than 300,000 of them die from it.”

            The reason that the death rates are so high, the Zdorovye experts suggest, is that “more than 60 percent of the cancers are diagnosed only when they reach the third or fourth stage, times when there are fewer successful treatment strategies available. And cancer victims are diagnosed so late, they say, at least in part to the optimization program as well.

            “The growth in mortality from cancer has sparked large doubts among experts about the quality of the delivery of health care” under optimization,” the Foundation says.  And it is also disturbing that the effectiveness of mobile health brigades which were to replace fixed clinics is “extremely low,” leaving an increasing number of Russians without access to health care.

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