We’ve seen reports of what reforms have done to Russian military medicine, but what follows is the first comprehensive review of its condition. Cuts and reorganizations are on Defense Minister Serdyukov, but, to be fair, infrastructure deficiencies long predated him. Military medicine is an area where he deserves some criticism. But it’s unclear why it was the weak point chosen for an attack on his management, or why Valentina Matviyenko was the one to deliver it. In any event, with the most recent chief of military medicine now in prison awaiting trial, it’s easy to conclude there are some pretty significant systemic problems.
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported Monday that a Federation Council panel on the social defense of servicemen has, not surprisingly, given military medicine an unsatisfactory evaluation. It came despite a positive self-assessment from the Main Military-Medical Directorate (GVMU). NG’s Sergey Konovalov said Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who conducted the session, repeated everything critical about military medicine heard recently from social organizations, parties, and the media.
Responding to the main report given by acting GVMU Chief, Colonel Anatoliy Kalmykov, Matviyenko said:
“You gave a positive assessment, you said that military medicine is coping with its missions. And at the same time your own slide shows a growth in illnesses among servicemen . . . . It’s higher than illnesses in the civilian population . . . . Is it forbidden to evaluate yourself more critically? Stop with this nonsense, comrade Colonel . . . .”
Konovalov notes for readers that Kalmykov’s only been at his temporary post for three weeks. He’s taking the spot of General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin who’s in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges as well for an alleged attempt to arrange the murder of a witness.
He continues with Matviyenko’s remarks:
“. . . today we face an imbalance between the state’s obligations in the military medical sphere and the real financial resources allocated for this purpose. Cuts in military hospitals, polyclinics have created problems in giving medical assistance. In 17 regions, military-medical departments are lacking, in 30 military units, they are deployed very remotely from them, and the great distance is becoming an insurmountable obstacle to treating military service veterans.”
Matviyenko expressed concern about cutting officers and replacing them with civilian workers in military medicine.
An Audit Chamber auditor told the FC panel more than 1,000 Defense Ministry medical units and departments (38 percent of the total) occupy buildings and spaces which don’t meet technical and sanitary norms. And 735 medical facilities (27 percent) need capital repair. New medical equipment the Defense Ministry languishes because there aren’t medical buildings and centers in which it’s possible to treat patients.
The military’s representatives apparently claimed a lack of money. But the Finance Ministry’s Director of the Department for Budget Policy in Military and Law Enforcement Services and State Defense Order, Aleksey Kaulbars rejected this:
“Just purely for health care, on the order of 39 billion rubles are allocated for the Defense Ministry. A little more than 60% has been expended according to the situation as of today. And what kind of grievances that it is insufficiently financed are possible in connection with this? For health care facility construction, the assimilation is 30%. Colleagues, what are we talking about?”
First Deputy GVP Andrey Nikulishchin is afraid unfinished construction and other military medical problems are connected with corruption. He suggests that military medical units get only 20-50 percent of the medicines they require. He blames elevated prices and “nontransparent” trade in them (presumably in addition to corruption).