EDITORIAL: “Healthcare” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia


Healthcare in Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Global Voices has translated a series of Russian blog posts dealing with the quality of healthcare provided in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  The story they tell is truly horrifying, and not only because of the grotesque disregard for individual human life that is shown by the regime but also because of the craven cowardice displayed by the Russians who confront it.

The story begins in 2006, when a blogger’s mother is taken to the hospital with an injured leg.  She spent her entire period of treatment languishing in a hallway along with hundreds of other patients helplessly waiting (basically, begging) for treatment in the packed confines of the facility.

Jump ahead to this year, when the mother’s condition worsens and she needs specialized surgery.  There’s a gigantic two-year waiting list, and the only way the woman can get on it is to obtain a specialized permission to enter the list. This requires a ghastly encounter with the bureaucracy.  Global Voices translates what happened next:

Quotas are currently being issued in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region on Wednesdays, in the courtyard at 24 Rudnev St., from 10 AM till noon, at the Orthopedics and Traumatology Medical Center. My mother had made four attempts at getting through there, before she turned to me, because she “was afraid to disturb me.” She just tried to do it by herself. And failed. Here’s why – people in wheelchairs and on crutches, as well as their relatives and friends, start coming to that courtyard to secure their place in the waiting line from 2:30 AM.  At 5 AM, dressed in my winter jacket, I didn’t even make it into the first 30. People stood in darkness on crutches, in wheelchairs, everyone recognized each other […]. Cars were parked everywhere. People were helping each other, as if during the [Siege of Leningrad], letting strangers sit in their relatives’ cars to get warm […]. Cold, dark, no toilets, people could barely keep standing. […] Mama replaced me at 8:30 AM. I was freezing to death by that time. Miraculously, she got her paper at 11:50 AM, ten minutes before the place closed. The fifth attempt was a success.

That wasn’t all. The blogger thought of visiting those waiting in the cold with tea and coffee, but was informed “coffee and tea won’t help. People are afraid to drink them, because they are spending 8-9 hours before the office opens, in the freezing cold and without toilets, with nowhere to go. ”

The blogger then decided to publicize the circumstances on the line with a photo essay, and this got picked up by the wider blogosphere and even some media outlets, which in turn induced the facilty to begin seeing patients twice a week rather than once and to stay open for longer hours.  So now, apparently, people will stand in line in the freezing cold with no bathrooms for three hours instead of six.  This is what passes for “progress” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

At no time during the discussion do the bloggers even contemplate any wider political action, such at as to demand national-scale action from the government leaders who are responsible.  Nobody attempts to blame the Kremlin, nobody suggests supporting any opposition political party (like Other Russia, for instance), and indeed nobody seems to care a whit what might be happening in other communities, only their own.  No thought is given to reducing the two-year waiting list, or even to documenting how many patients never get the care they need.  No questions are asked about why the Kremlin, floating on a sea of cash from oil windfalls, is devoting so much energy to foreign provocations and so little energy to the needs of Russia’s sick and aging population.

In a second translation, Global Voices translates another post from a Russian blogger, this time attempting to help his grandmother qualify for an apartment subsidy.  It’s more of the same.  Even with the use of the grandson’s automobile, a luxury most impoverished Russians cannot dream about, the necessary documentation could not be obtained in a single day.  One commenter writes:

Yes, it takes a couple of weeks and more to gather all the certificates and stand in lines in order to get any kind of benefits payment here… It is especially horrible to watch single mothers who are forced to move through all these circles of hell to get money for their newborns. Old women, they are taking it one step at a time, they are at least not tied to breastfeeding and the child’s schedule, and they don’t have to run up the stairs with baby carriages

Another states:

While you […] are talking about getting some benefits out of the bureaucratic apparatus, what amazes me is how much energy one has to spend on getting what seems like the simplest paperwork done. To change [propiska, “the record of place of residence”], for example. Even the young ones need to store up some energy for that.

Again, there is no attempt to ascribe blame to the Kremlin, much less to support opposition politics. 

One would like to remind the latter commenter that what’s really amazing is not the amount of effort required to get a propiska but rather that (a) Russia is supposed to be democracy, not the USSR, and propiska is not supposed to be required and (b) the craven, cowardly people of Russia stand idly by and allow this requirement to be imposed upon them.

In fact, as to the effort required to get a propiska, that’s not the least bit surprising. The government is sending a clear message to the people of the country that they stand in servitude to the regime and have no rights of any kind. By creating these obstacles the regime cowers and intimidates the population, and by denying them social benefits it weakens them. Weak, intimidated people are of course much easier to control, with fewer resources, than people of a different kind.

Putin has chosen from the beginning to devote Russia’s few resources to reinvigorating the cold war rather than Russia’s sick and helpless population. History is left to be his judge, because it’s clear the craven population of Russia will not do so.

It’s highly noteworthy that nowhere in this translation do we see any comments from Russians placing blame on Putin or Medvedev, much less do we see any plans for direction action. Instead, the author simply proposes to do the government’s work for it, allowing it to save money to be used on a new cold war with the outside world.

Here we have the horrifying mess that is Russia in perfect microcosm.

7 responses to “EDITORIAL: “Healthcare” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia

  1. This is the result of Universal health care. This is why health care is a responsibility and not a right. A right means certain obligations that the State must ensure its citizens and in nearly every case even in Norway, the State fails miserable in providing good basic care. That is why health care is the responsibility of every citizen. Everyone needs to pay something into the system. But the system must be run by private enterprise to ensure quality of care and proper rationing of resources. The government needs only to act as referee to ensure that these private entities do not gouge or unfairly take advantage of their patients.

    Putin can certainly be a big help to Obama on how to transform the decaying and decrepit American Health care system to Russian Bureaucratic style in Obamaland, where everything is free and no services are rendered.

  2. Not really Kolchak. It only takes enough ethnic cohesion for the people to think not only about themselves, but for the other people allso, that they consider of “their own.”

    That is what is (still) happening in Finland. I certainly hope that it will stay that way.

  3. Tower Bolshevik

    Look at the privatized health system of America. Where people with no insurance are given a choice between receiving health care and leaving them and their families in total financial ruin; or not receive health care and keep your finances secure and die. Privatized health care is sick and corrupt. In my area about a month ago, a homeless man was being harassed to pay his bill. If universal health care is so evil and bad, why is it that every first and second world country has it, except the USA?

    If this woman and her mother were uninsured in an American hospital, her mother would be treated. But she’d end up with a medical bill that only a multibillionaire could pay, resulting in her name being ultimately slimed.

  4. I can only imagine what is happening in Russia with its healthcare system and to what degree an average Russian citizen suffers.
    Sadly, I have to admit that a large influx of Russian emigre doctors have corrupted and abused American system to it foundation. From Brooklyn to LA there is a widespread scam that involves a full gamut of illegal profit making activities ranging from phony auto collision insurance to sophisticated prescription and medical diagnostics scams. There are some very organized rings that involve Russian gangs in collusion with medical professionals to rip-off our medical system. In addition, many of the Russian doctors practicing in the US (as many as 30%) have acquired fraudulent licences. The damage to US medical system is massive – NO JOKE ! Check the Russian enclaves in New York and one will see as many as 2 pharmacies per city block !!?? This is happening at the time where legitimate pharmacies in average New York areas going out of business.

  5. Standing in line is part of the payment you must make in order to receive stolen goods from the state.
    Gven that there is no such thing as a guaranteed profit, every cent of stolen money you receive from the state has to be paid for one way or another.
    As a consequence, the whole equivalent of what governments redistribute must be wasted in the efforts made to get it.
    That is why socialism is such a scourge on mankind: it destroys everything it touches.

  6. TB, can you say C-O-U-N-T-E-R-F-E-I-T, or more accurately S-U-B-V-E-R-S-I-O-N in a capitalist society.

    This is the only possible way to make socialism appear viable by comparison.

    Does destroying peoples lives make you smile?

  7. “But she’d end up with a medical bill that only a multibillionaire could pay, resulting in her name being ultimately slimed.”

    This again shows your ignorance, medical bills do not show up on credit reports. Paying them is optional.

    Based on the socialist model, screw the person that’s trying to help.

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