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3 Feb, 2010 07:52

Essential medical care becomes luxury for villagers

Affordable healthcare for residents of a small town in the Moscow region is now in question after the authorities have considerably slashed the budget of a local hospital.

Drovninskaya Hospital in the Mozhaisk district 100 kilometers from Moscow is a tiny facility that has not been renovated for quite some time. Yet for the 2,500 people who live in this area, it is a lifeline to fast and affordable healthcare.

Walking is harder than it used to be for Valentina Lukyanova – her joints are stiffening, giving way to debilitating arthritic flare-ups. To ease chronic pain and increase mobility, Valentina has to visit the local hospital in her small town 100 kilometers outside Moscow.

The 62 year-old grandmother likes the service there, and she likes that it is close to home, as the second closest hospital is 20 kilometers away.

“You have to switch buses in Uvarovka village [to get to the next hospital] where you sit for 1.5 hours waiting for the next bus. Do you really think arthritis can get better from all this traveling? No way, it can only get worse.”

Indeed, the medical lifeline might be cut altogether – a special committee is considering closing the hospital down. It is the latest in a series of cost-cutting moves. The hospital’s budget was reduced three times last year, and three staff positions were not taken.

“Our services cover schools and kindergartens of this territory. We certainly don’t have enough personnel. I’m the only physician here. I’m assisted by a dentist,” says local doctor Yury Savchenko.

The deputy administrator admits that the economy is dictating some change, but he also notes that the commission is looking to reform the local health care system so that there are fewer violations and so that it runs more smoothly. One suggestion includes transferring long-term care patients to boarding houses to make more beds available.

Administration officials insist patients will not be neglected, though the hospital may serve them differently.