Monday, August 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Under Putin, Russia has Become ‘a Land of Potemkin Hospitals’

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 11 – Not only has the Russian government reduced the number of hospital beds available to the Russian people and increased the amount they have to spend on health care, but it has failed to live up to its promises to pay medical personnel more, leaving ever more hospitals without staffs and transforming Russia into “a land of Potemkin hospitals.”


            According to the findings of the Accounting Chamber as reported by Lyudmila Rybina in “Novaya gazeta,” all this is having a negative impact on the health and well-being of the population, even though the Russian health ministry has done everything it can to cover up what is going on (


            The auditors found that the health ministry has not provided sufficient funds to ensure that the Russian people receive the free medical help they have been promised and thus have made a mockery of much-ballyhooed claims about providing it, even as it has maintained its “silence about those difficulties” which those who are ill and those who would treat them face.


            Claims that the government is increasing spending on health care are misleading on two grounds, the Chamber said. That is because the costs of medical care are rising everywhere and “an increase in spending does not translate into an increase in access to help” and because the health ministry has been playing games with the years it compares, thus ignoring changes in Russian law.


            Not only are more Russians having to pay for medicines and treatments they are supposed to get for free than the case earlier, but in 2013 alone, the authorities closed 76 polyclinics and 302 hospitals, reducing the number of beds by 35,000, 14,000 of which were in rural areas.


            The health ministry said in its defense that those closed were too small to be effective, but the result has been that many Russians no longer have access nearby to the health care they need, something that is especially worrisome because of radical increases in the cost of ambulance services across the country.


            But even in the hospitals that do remain open, there is an increasing shortage of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. Salaries are extremely slow, 25 percent slower on average than those for people engaged in fishing and fish processing.  Last year alone, 7200 doctors quit their posts in government hospitals, and 3600 nurses and other staff did the same.




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