Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Government Destroying Moscow’s Medical System in the Name of Saving It

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 22 – Perhaps the most notorious comment by a US commander in Vietnam was his suggestion that his units had to “destroy the village in order to save it.”  Now, a Russian commentator is suggesting that Moscow officials are pursuing much the same strategy with regard to the health care delivery system in the Russian capital.


            In an article on yesterday, Mikhail Belyayev says that health care in Moscow, which is historically much better than in any other place in Russia, is being destroyed “under the guise of ‘reorganization’” and that the health of Russians will suffer as a result (


            According to the Moscow city government, it will be closing 28 medical institutions, including 15 hospitals, dismissing or demoting 1263 doctors and 2990 nurses as well as support personnel, all, Belyayev says, to free up the valuable real estate these facilities occupy and make it available for sale.


            In the process, he says, “unique specialists which any normal country would be proud of and value are being dismissed as mere bureaucrats” who can be fired whenever it suits their bosses or their bosses’ bosses. And this process, Belyayev continues, is so immoral that even the bureaucrats carrying it out recognize that fact.


            These officials are employing a technology “as old as the world: if you have to do something very bad but you don’t want to disturb society, then you call it by some other superficially neutral term which doesn’t have in the mass consciousness such negative connotations.”


            The Nazis were past masters of this, the Moscow commentator says, “they did not say ‘we are killing,’ but rather preferred to use the more neutral term ‘we are liquidating.’”  Moscow bureaucrats are doing the same thing now, preferring to avoid talking “directly” about what they are doing and what it means.


            Here is just one aspect of this, Belyayev says. Half of the hospitals being closed are devoted to birthing and gynecology.  Russia has demographic problems and its officials are always talking about the need to increase the birthrate, “if we of course do not intend to send the entire people to the cemetery.”


            The name of the official responsible for this horrific plan, the commentator continues, is Aleksey Kripun.  He advises his readers to remember this well in case they have problems with their health and can’t find a hospital or doctors to treat them. Then they will know exactly whom to say “’an enormous thank you.’”


            The plan shows that officials are evaluating hospitals by the amount of money they bring in and the value of the land on which they sit rather than on the share of people who are cured or prevented from suffering premature deaths. “But a hospital is not a trade center. It is a place where lives are saved and to evaluate it in terms of money is insanity.”


            If one reads the actual government plan and not just government press releases, Belyayev says, one finds that the main criterion for closing hospitals in Moscow is whether the land on which they sit is so valuable that it could be sold to bring in even more money to the government. Thus most of the hospitals to be closed are in the highest rent districts.


            “Judging from everything,” he says, “what money remains in the country is only for the dachas of the Rotenbergs.” Politicians are ready and even eager to give such people compensation for the loss of their second homes, but they do not share a similar desire to ensure the health of their own citizens.


            Moscow’s vice mayor, Leonid Pechatnikov, confessed to this when he said that he and his colleagues didn’t want to publish the plan because its terms had left them “quietly crying in [their] offices.” Now that the plan is out, the vice mayor said, “we will cry altogether.” But what kind of a leader can say that? Real ones should be struggling against such plans.


            The government’s plan to shutter hospitals and fire medical staff in Moscow is “a real crime against our fellow citizens,” Belyayev says.  These actions will “shorten life expectancy and their quality of life” so that the government can get more money, an indication that officials view citizens as entirely disposable if they are not profitable to the regime.




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