Grigory Pasko: National Mirages

National Mirages Grigory Pasko, journalist When former president of Russia Vladimir Putin was singing the praises of the realization of the National Project for health care, only someone dense and lazy wouldn’t have had the thought this whole big PR bacchanalia was needed for the creation of at least some kind of positive image for the then little-known Dmitry Medvedev. It was none other than Medvedev who was responsible for these same National Projects, which, in the words of Putin himself and Medvedev himself, were “extraordinarily successful”. stjosef070908 Photo: The St. Josef clinic in Regensburg (Grigory Pasko)

On the television channels they were showing how this or that hospital somewhere in Russia was receiving new ambulances or ultrasound diagnostic equipment within the framework of this National Project. That is, they were showing as “achievements” something that should have been done a long time ago and without any PR spin, but simply because the country is in need of such medical equipment and vehicles. And because the country’s got lots and lots of oil-and-gas money, which could be used for a real – not just in words – improvement of the situation with health care.At the same time, nearly every Russian regularly collides with this situation in medicine – a situation that is plainly bad and even poor.I too collided with it.It so happened that in the autumn of last year, one young doctor accidentally discovered that I had a tumor on one of my kidneys. He immediately told me that the tumor, in his opinion, was cancerous. But he was quick to add that of course, additional tests would be required. All the additional tests agreed with one another that the tumor was benign.One Doctor of Medical Sciences told me: let’s wait until the tumor grows. Even though I’m not a specialist, I understood that waiting – means procrastinating a solution to the problem, irrespective of whether the tumor is malignant or benign.Another Doctor of Sciences said right away: let’s cut it out – but together with the rest of the kidney. (As I write all this, I’m trying to maximally abstract myself from the fact that all this concerns me personally, because in the given instance I’m more of a journalist than a patient. And I believe my experiences dealing with medicine may help someone to better understand the situation in which Russian medicine finds itself).I asked: why remove the entire kidney if it’s healthy? The answer was this: first, we will not be able to remove only the tumour, because it’s in a very difficult place. And second, this way there is less likelihood that a tumor will once again appear later.That is, I was being offered only one solution, and it was cardinal.And I agreed to have an operation for the removal of my entire kidney at a Russian scientific research institute, reassuring myself that after all, there are plenty of people living with one kidney.And here the Director of this scientific research institute invited me to visit him. He is a well-known specialist in his field, a Professor, a Doctor of Sciences, and, as it turned out, a very decent human being. He said that such a difficult situation as I was in could be resolved only… in Germany. And he named the address of a clinic in Regensburg. And he named the name of the Director of this urology clinic, Professor Wolfgang-Fedrinand Wieland.vieland070908Photo: Clinic director Professor Doctor Wieland (Grigory Pasko)The Russian Director could have not bothered to tell me the truth. After all, the truth, Russian style, comes down to this, that in our country it is customary to remove the entire kidney, and not perform a complicated operation that would save the organ. He could have simply not said anything, and sent me to one of his departments for the removal of the entire kidney. But he told me the truth. I can imagine that this was not easy for him: to admit that his subordinates are not yet able to perform such operations. They’re unable to for various reasons: due to insufficient experience, but first and foremost – due to the lack of the kind of equipment that their German colleagues have.If the leading scientific research institute of Russia doesn’t have the required medical equipment, then what kind of National Program for health care can one speak about, anyway?By the way, after my operation in Germany, I started to notice how poorly equipped Russian operating rooms are. Anybody who watches Russian television will have no difficulty finding news stories about how something someplace exploded, someone suffered injuries and was taken to an operating room. Take a good look at those operating rooms. If you have something you can compare them with, you will see just how dismally poorly equipped these places where doctors do their truly lifesaving work are.…..I’ve touched upon just one the National Mirages – health care. Yet there are others, too – housing-and-public-utilities, transportation with its fools and roads, education with its attempts to rewrite history and to introduce compulsory religious instruction… But that’s all for some other time perhaps.