The Russian life expectancy has increased to 71 years, but that value can vary dramatically by region , with many provinces having a life expectancy of under 65 years for men. While the number of specialists is relatively high, especially around Moscow and St. Petersburg, the number of general practitioners is low and is shockingly low in rural areas.
Seventeen thousand five hundred towns and villages have no local medical services at all. Lines are long, and bribes are common to assure treatment. These statistics are all a bit dry though, and nightmare stories about the conditions in Russian hospitals can provide much-needed illustration. An Icelandic woman told the world her experience of going to a rural Russian hospital with heartburn.
After being given a shot in the bum without warning, enduring a filthy, bloody bathroom, and a bed with soiled sheets her Russian speaking husband had to prevent the doctors from engaging in surgery to "make sure that the internal organs" were "in order. Some doctors reportedly show up to work while drunk and even try to work on patients while plastered.
One woman related a story where snockered doctors kept screwing up an IV until her husbands' arm was swollen. Her attempts to reason with the doctor went nowhere. Perhaps she should be glad they couldn't get it right, since a woman died in a Russian hospital when they somehow put formaldehyde in her IV.
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At least she got to the hospital, in an interview with France 24 a woman explains how she had to give directions to an ambulance that had to come in from out of town and got lost on route. The extra time cost the life of her daughter. Even Russian government officials understand their medical services are than stellar. Pavel Astakhov, the former commissioner of children's rights, took his wife to France to give birth to their child rather than endure a Russian hospital. He explained to the press, "I was concerned about my wife and future child, I couldn't take the risk.
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He isn't paranoid, the Russian maternal mortality rate is double that of the United States and triple that of France. Given the pro-natal policies Russia has implemented to help increase their falling birthrate, this is quite unsettling. There are many reasons for the wretched condition of Russian healthcare. The primary cause of the current troubles is massive funding cutbacks made in in response to an economic downturn.
Before the recession, the healthcare system had been improving from the shock of the collapse of the USSR, with life expediencies passing Soviet levels in Cost-cutting measures have inflicted havoc on small communities, where services were cut the most.
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Some towns now lack ambulance service. The time it takes for one to arrive from the next city over is often too long for those in need. This would be less of a problem if the hospitals in the other towns were adequately funded, but they aren't. The result is poor infrastructure where it exists and none in other places. Soviet era equipment often goes without replacement or repair. Culture is also a factor. Many doctors in Russia were trained during the days of the USSR and are not up to date on new procedures and guidelines since professional development isn't as valued as it is in America.
This, in turn, lends to a different attitude toward medicine and patient care than would otherwise be expected. For example, many Russian doctors won't allow families to visit sick patients despite declarations from the government stating that kin have the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital.
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While prohibiting visits to the ill might have made sense in the Gulag archipelago, today it is an arbitrary rule that keeps people from seeing their family members; even when they are dying. In one case, for instance, a woman was forced to draw a gun on a doctor who wouldn't let her see her dying five-year-old otherwise. In a sentence: how not to manage a national health care program. More specifically, we can look at the decay of the Russian system since for insights as to what can cause a system that was on the up and up to suddenly go down in flames. This isn't to say America's healthcare system is without its own nightmarish stories, but the drastic funding cutbacks in Russia has had a wide-randing impact — many doctors in the provinces are making poverty line wages.
This, in turn, could explain their lack of professionalism and why they drink on the job. No system that pays so poorly can expect quality staff to sign on, particularly if the position requires living in Siberia. Attempts to make the system more efficient have led to hospital closures in isolated areas that leave patients hours away from the nearest, still underfunded, medical facilities. Given the crisis that rural America is currently facing with closing hospitals and long drives to quality medical care , this lesson has a clear application in this country.
Leningrad Institute for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood. Photographs by John A. Kingsbury In a Moscow creche. Photograph by Soviet Photo Agency Dr. Pavlov's Laboratory, Leningrad. Photograph by John A. Kingsbury Compulsory vaccination on collective farm in Turkmenistan. Cardiac patients near Borzhom, Georgia.
The Crisis of Russian Health Care and Attempts at Reform
Silos on State cattle farm in Georgia. Kingsbury Traveling dental station in rural district near Moscow. Kingsbury Third Labor Polyclinic, Kharkov. Hospital for government employees, Moscow.