Staunton, July 27 – Russian officials and experts acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic was responsible for 40 percent of the increase in mortality in Russia last year; but 60 percent of the increased deaths were from other causes, many of them related to the degradation of Russian healthcare under Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” plan, Ivan Aleksandrov says.
Deaths from some causes didn’t change or even declined, the Russian journalist writing under a pseudonym says. Among these were deaths from cancer, accidents, and suicides (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-развал-системы-здравоохранения-смертоноснее-коронавируса).
But others increased radically in 2020. Deaths from diseases involving the lungs, not counting covid, rose by 66 percent. Pneumonia deaths were up 250 percent, although some of these may have been misdiagnosed coronavirus cases. And deaths from heart disease and circulatory disorders were also up by double-digit figures.
In many cases, these increases reflected a combination of three things: declines in standard of living, cutbacks in medical facilities and programs, and the reluctance of people to seek help outside the home lest they contract the coronavirus, Aleksandrov continues. But taken together, the non-covid causes of death are increasingly disturbing.
The number of Russians suffering from diabetes has doubled since 2000, with deaths from that disease rising 22 percent last year from the year before. Many got worse because of the isolation regime and inadequate diet, but the trend is so great that it will likely continue, especially as the government has cut back programs for diabetics.
The spread of diseases like diabetics and mental illness in Russia is so large that experts are speaking of “non-infectious epidemics” and saying that by coming together with infectious ones like covid, the country has entered into a perfect storm that the healthcare system is currently incapable of handling.
Deaths from drug overdoses increased by 60 percent last year over 2019, and mortality from alcoholism also rose, albeit only by six percent. Many of these deaths could have been avoided had people been able and willing to visit doctors, Aleksandrov says. But shortages of doctors and the pandemic have limited both.
So far this year, he continues, “excess mortality has continued to grow” not only because of the pandemic but because of these other causes. Indeed, during the first five months of this year, mortality in Russia was 30 percent higher than during the same period in 2020. And there are signs that the situation may be deteriorating further.
Rosstat has not issued death figures broken down by disease for the first five months, and it has not issued overall mortality figures for the last two. Healthcare activists are alarmed. Aleksandr Saversky of the League of Defenders of Patients’ Rights, says that the healthcare system’s failure to help is “one of the key causes” for rising deaths.
He says that in his opinion, “this is a crime.”