Communist MPs urge Putin to reform healthcare using Soviet model

© Kirill Braga
A group of Communist Party lawmakers are calling on President Vladimir Putin to halt the current healthcare reforms because market-oriented optimization could allegedly boost mortality rates and lead to violations of basic Human Rights.

The letter was signed by 50 lower house MPs, including the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennadiy Zyuganov. Its main provisions are based on the 2015 Audit Chamber report that listed a number of serious negative effects of the healthcare reforms that were launched in Russia several years ago.

In particular, the authors of the petition point to the mass personnel cuts in medical institutions that are being held “without any prior planning or consideration of the capabilities of those who remain.”

READ MORE: Communists put own anti-crisis program to Putin

The reported growth in the average salary in the medical sphere has been achieved not through the growth of wage rates, but through the seriously increased work load for the average worker, the authors of the letter noted. At the same time, the quality and availability of medical services have not yet improved, they added.

According to official plans, by 2018 the Health Ministry intends to close 11.2 percent of hospitals and 7.2 percent of all clinics and dispensaries.

At the same time, the quality and affordability of medical services are becoming worse, the Communists said in their letter. They pointed out that in some places across the country people have to travel dozens of kilometers to see a doctor or wait for up to six weeks to get an ordinary ultrasound scan. “As a result, few people, especially in villages, can receive their medications, even if these medications are sponsored from the budget. Even fewer people can afford to buy medications from their own budget,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers noted that in 2014 the mortality rate was up by 2.2 percent compared to the previous year, and attributed this fact to the alleged failure of the reforms.

The optimization of the medical sphere has violated the basic Human Right of Russian citizens – the right to healthcare. The policy of cutting jobs in medical institutions and the liquidation of these institutions must be radically reconsidered,” the MPs wrote in their letter.

In addition, the Communist lawmakers proposed that the Health Ministry consider the possibility to introduce a different payment system in the medical industry and get rid of the “unjustified gap” between the incomes of hospital directors and ordinary doctors. They also urged the authorities to introduce a type of system that would guarantee the responsibility of civil servants for the results of the various reforms they launch.

The head of the lower house Committee for Healthcare, MP Sergey Furgal (LDPR), commented on the letter, saying that the problem it highlighted certainly existed, but could be solved without the president’s involvement. “We have already passed in the first reading the bill that forbids the closure of medical institutions without approval from ordinary citizens living in the region where this happens. We have practically stopped this process already,” Frugal told the online daily Gazeta.ru.

He added that people in the Health Ministry also understood the problem and were looking at a number of measures to keep the negative consequences of the planned changes to a minimum.

READ MORE: Communists plan 'popular patriotic coalition' to counter United Russia at future polls

Earlier this month, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation approved and forwarded to the president an anti-crisis program based on the nationalization of mineral resources, a state monopoly on alcohol and tobacco, and restrictions on capital outflows. Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov promised that the anti-crisis proposals would form the core of the broader program prepared by his party for the next State Duma elections, due in September.