Blackmail and extrortion are a routine part of treatment in Russia’s ailing hospitals according to an Associated Press (AP) report in the International Hearld Tribune. Coming on the back of media stories suggesting that Russian men are drinking aftershave, cleaning agents and herbal tinctures containing up to 97% alcohol, these reports go a long way to explaining why Russian have a life expectancy of below 60 years.
AP reported on the case of Karen Papiyants, who lost his leg in a road accident and whose doctors ‘strongly suggested’ he pay $4,500 (Euros3,500) into their St. Petersburg hospital's bank account to be ensured proper care.
In theory Russians are supposed to receive free basic medical care. But patients and experts told AP that doctors, nurses and surgeons routinely demand payments — even bribes — from those they treat. And critics say the practice persists despite Russia's booming economy and its decision to spend billions to improve the health care system.
Medical care in Russia is among the worst in the industrialized world. A 2000 World Health Organization report ranked Russia's health system 130th out of 191 countries, on a par with nations such as Peru and Honduras.
Russia is one of the few nations in the world where life expectancy has declined sharply in the past 15 years. In that time, Russia’s population has dropped below 143 million. President Putin has called this ‘the most acute problem of contemporary Russia.’
UK research published in The Lancet estimated that half of all deaths in working age men in the country were due to hazardous drinking. Heart disease also claims proportionately more lives in Russia than in most of the rest of the world. Death rates from homicide, suicide, auto accidents and cancer are also especially high.
Over the past two years the Russian government has more than doubled health care spending to some $7 billion (Û5.2 billion), but that still works out to only about 3.4% percent of all government spending. The World Health Organization recommends at least 5%.
Moreover, this new spending does little if it fails to tackle corruption.