Category Archives: Military Medicine

Military Medicine Gets an Unsat

Valentina Matviyenko

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).

The Treatment of Private L.

Militaryparitet.com took time to highlight an article from Rusinfotoday.com on the deaths of Privates Lantsov and Tsybuk, as well as the case of the Samara conscripts in Astrakhan. 

21-year-old Kemerovo native Yevgeniy Lantsov last communicated with his wife on 5 January.  In her words, he coughed more than he talked, and he told her he couldn’t get out of bed.  

The military hospital refused to admit Lantsov because they didn’t think he was from one of their units.  It was only on 7 January that Lantsov was seen in a medical unit.  His command subsequently said that they had just moved, and their own medical unit was not set up.

On 10 January, now in serious condition, Lantsov was transferred to the military hospital that originally refused him, and it promptly sent him to the Chelyabinsk Oblast Hospital.

Meanwhile, Lantsov’s command didn’t inform his parents about his condition; they found out when they called the hospital using a telephone number they got from the Internet.  Learning their son wasn’t getting better, they immediately flew to Chelyabinsk.

Lantsov’s mother and father met with a deputy military prosecutor in Chelyabinsk.  According to them, the prosecutor said:

“If you hadn’t come to us, we wouldn’t have known anything about this.”

On 21 January, Lantsov’s parents gave the prosecutor a statement about the absence of prompt medical care for their son, and the next day he died.

The elder Lantsov said:

“No one is concerned about soldiers.  No one needs a soldier.  They’re called up and abandoned.  What need was there to move the unit right before the New Year, when there’s such a freeze?  Officers themselves were in confusion, they had just settled in a new place, and nobody worried about the soldiers.”

For two years, Lantsov had a deferment because of a heart problem.  But he was inducted a month and a half after his daughter’s birth.  His father says:

“We asked for a deferment until spring – his wife was in the hospital with complications for a month after delivery, but they told us – they are discharging your wife, and we’re taking you.  They just have to fulfill the plan.  The order came from above – shave [i.e. induct] them all in turn.”

So Yevgeniy went in the army with a diagnosis of tachycardia and “insignficant limitations” on his service.  Being ordinary miners without connections or money to buy his way out, his parents weren’t able to help him evade service.  So, the dead serviceman leaves a wife, infant child, and a 7-year-old adopted daughter.

Private Konstantin Tsybuk died from an aggressive form of meningitis, although he’d been diagnosed with pneumonia.  He left a wife and 10-month-old daughter in Cherbarkul.  The military commissar of Chelyabinsk Oblast Nikolay Zakharov comments:

“The ‘father-commanders’ didn’t worry about normal, ‘human’ conditions of life for their own soldiers, as a result of this, in the full swing of winter’s freeze, one of them died.  It’s very bad that a soldier perishes in peace time, and not in the fulfillment of a combat mission.  The investigation is on-going and will bring the guilty people to account.”

More than 60 soldiers from Tsybuk’s unit are in the hospital with pneumonia.  Over the New Year’s holiday, the unit’s boiler blew up and the boiler house burned down.  And conscripts had just arrived, and were settled in the frozen barracks.  Tsybuk’s relatives said he called home and said that he had to sleep in his overcoat.  

The Main Military Prosecutor is investigating the illnesses in Tsybuk’s unit, and has found that certain officers did not conscientiously fulfill their duties in protecting the lives and health of their soldiers.  Senior Lieutenant Igor Gurov is being charged with negligence in Tsybuk’s case.

Lastly, Samara conscripts who arrived sent to Astrakhan were living in tents, according to the mother of one soldier, on a dirt floor covered with mattresses, without hot water, while it was -20° C (-4° F).

Many of them got sick, and their commanders didn’t hurry to get them medical attention until their parents went to the human rights ombudsman for Samara Oblast.  After this, their situation improved.  The sick were hospitalized, and the others got wooden floors for their tents and hot food.

Rusinfotoday.com concludes such stories are a dime a dozen:

“There isn’t a person in Russia who doesn’t know that our army is slavery.”

The army doesn’t spend money on elementary but expensive things like real medicine, hospitals, and doctors because:

“Soldiers are an expendable resource which everyone wants to make a profit on.”

“Our country simply doesn’t and won’t have an army.  Just the lives of young men driven into slave work, sacrificed right and left for practically no reason.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin has an article today claiming sources tell him there’s an army pandemic, with more than 2,500 men in the hospital with URIs, including more than 500 with pneumonia.  And the military’s medics have been cut 5-7 times.

The Main Military-Medical Directorate, meanwhile, is under investigation by both the Audit Chamber and the Main Military Prosecutor for questionable use of its budget in some instances, according to Mukhin.

In other related news, this morning IA Rosbalt reported an Australian citizen has died of swine flu in Ufa.

Tvoy den says Lantsov’s unit is under a quarantine, and has 36 soldiers in its medical unit with URIs.

IA Regnum reported Friday that there are some quarantine measures in place in Chelyabinsk, where 95 people have allegedly contracted swine flu.