Healthcare Remains Appalling 20 Years After Communism

Comment: If you think the stories about Soviet-era medicine elsewhere on this page belong in the dustbin of history, here’s a story from 2011, fully 20 years after the Soviet Union and its communist system disappeared.  In case you haven’t gotten the point yet, these problems derive from the nature of government-run medicine and will appear wherever and whenever a government takeover of healthcare is tried – including the United States.  Take it from somebody who lived in Russia in recent years and sees U.S. healthcare starting to go down the same path:  “A lot of the hospitals in Russia do not have a proper way to dispose of their needles or bloody gloves.  I have seen first-hand how they throw them in regular garbage bags and in some extreme examples, throw them out the window.”

“In Russia, a trip to the hospital may be what lands you in the morgue…”

“In some hospitals, lifesaving equipment dates back to the Soviet era, and air conditioning is a rarity….”

“Orphaned infants left in a hospital in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg had their mouths taped in order to muffle their cries. Babies are often tied down in their cribs in understaffed hospitals. A hospital near Moscow made headlines in 2009 when two orphaned girls were repeatedly attacked by a large rat running loose in the ward. Prison hospitals are infamous for refusing adequate treatment, like one in St. Petersburg where 30 inmates perished in a six-month span this year.”

Russia’s Deadly Hospitals
AUGUST 26, 2011


The Folly of Central Planning in Healthcare

Comment: Here’s what happens when you turn healthcare over to the government – corruption, bribery, politicization, favoritism, shortages, rationing, crazy decisions, misguided metrics, and a system that leaves you with no choice and no say. Read these excerpts and tell us you still want the government to run healthcare in the United States.  As for central planning, some things are so complicated – language, law, economics, and healthcare – they can’t possibly be planned by a central authority.  If central planning is so great, then why are we all speaking English and not Esperanto, hmmm? In case you didn’t notice, Obamacare has put much of the central planning apparatus solidly in place in anticipation of single-payer.

“The Soviet Union was the first country to introduce a fully nationalized health-care system. To the cheers of Western “progressives,” Lenin signed a decree in 1919 stating that every Soviet citizen had a right to free medical care.

“The real culprit is socialized medicine. We are watching the effects of 70 years of Leninist health care.

“Top Communist Party government officials have their own Ministry of Health hospitals. They have full access to specialized medical care more or less on the level of Western countries, free of charge.

“The masses aren’t so lucky…..

“All medical “norms” are generated by the Ministry of Health.

“The industry is run according to a socialist “plan.” For example, the planned hospital stay is 21 days. No one can stay longer. But if the bribe is high enough, you can be re-admitted for another 21 days with a different doctor in a different division. If you stay for fewer than 21 days, you would be fortunate to see a doctor, much less be treated.

“It is impossible for ordinary people to get decent pharmaceuticals, and drug stores have only the most primitive medicines. Moreover, the doctors do not give prescriptions based on medical need, but on the availability of drugs…. If a person has a disease for which he needs a special drug, he can forget it.

“The country is flooded with penicillin, however. In 1946, Stalin was impressed with how effective it was and ordered that the Soviet Union have the same amount the West does. The “plan” has never been altered, but 89 percent of citizens have built up a resistance to penicillin’s effects. But it is still prescribed because there is nothing else.

“All hospitals are extremely congested. In Moscow, the hospitals keep four to six patients per room, but in the outskirts, the hospitals house 12 to 16 patients per room. Private rooms are available only for people who are dying.

“Officially, all medical care is supposed to be free. But there are enormous lines for such things as preventive check-ups and surgery. People with chronic appendicitis must wait 1 1/2 years for service.

Rural areas have virtually no real medical care. Thirty-six percent of rural hospitals have no running water or modern sewage systems.

“There are no disposable syringes in rural hospitals, so they are re-used an average of 1,000 times. They are sterilized by boiling, which is fine provided they are boiled for 40 minutes. But they are often not, because the workers have no real incentive to do so. That’s why there is an epidemic of hepatitis in the Soviet Union (716,000 cases were reported in 1988, more than 30 times the number of cases reported in the U.S.).

“Because there is no private property, the hospital staff dumps test tubes filled with infectious disease any place they can. In rural areas, you can find glass mountains filled with test tubes and beakers carrying, for example, the tuberculosis bacillus which lasts for 90 years.

“The “plan” says that medical treatment for any one patient must not cost more than the official rate of 11 cents per day. If the hospital spends more, they must give the other patients less.

“The hospitals must even abide by a planned death rate, which is set to make the system look better than it is. The lower the rate reported by the hospital, the better. If the patient dies on the front steps, it doesn’t go into the statistics. The hospitals throw people out when they are dying. Doctors will tell the family how much better it would be if the patient spent his dying days at home. Or the doctors will simply give the patient a clean bill of health and evict him from the bed.

“The average physician has 3,000 to 5,000 patients assigned to him or her. The patients have no choice. They must take whoever they are assigned in any given territory. If the local physician is a butcher, that’s too bad.

“Doctors expect bribes, but they go about it subtly. “We can operate for free, but we will have to do so without anesthesia,” one will say. “If you want some anesthesia, I have a friend who can get it, but I’ll have to pay for it out of my own pocket. Will you reimburse me?” As bad as this system of bribes is, of course, health care would be worse without it.

“The “plan” stipulates that food served in hospitals be limited to 14 cents per day. And it tastes like 14 cents a day. Everything in the kitchen that is decent is stolen by the employees and sold on the black market.

“Government control takes freedom of choice away from the public and puts it in the hands of bureaucrats responsive only to their own interests and those of the state, instead of the buying public. Private enterprise in medical care means patient sovereignty. The Soviets ignored this principle, and the public is now paying for it with their health and lives.”

In The Soviet Union — A Medical Nightmare
Yuri N. Maltsev
Seattle Times
August 5, 1990


Even the Doctors Say State Child Hospitals Scary                 

“On the eve of a large-scale rally planned to promote improved healthcare for children in Novosibirsk, two more incidents highlight the parlous state of Russia’s hospitals….”

“In a case which echoes the death of eight-month-old Maxim Maximov in Novosibirsk earlier this month, the family of Andrei Kotenok are taking legal action after the six-year-old’s death following kidney surgery….the family found one hospital could provide neither specialist staff nor appropriate medicine when he needed surgery after a cycling accident in June 2010, and it took a 10-hour drive to get the boy to a hospital which could help.  That delay contributed to the boy’s death the next day, his relatives believe. It is also claimed that a shortage of suitable blood for a transfusion and a faulty monitor further hindered Andrei’s hopes of recovery….”

“Blogger Yanissimo, from Volgograd in southern Russia, posted details of what he found when he brought his child to Moscow for treatment.  ‘Even the doctors say this state hospital is scary,’ Yanissimo wrote on his Livejournal page about his experiences.  His account describes a day wasted standing in queues for six hours simply to complete the registration processes and get into the hospital. Then he explains how his wife was left with nowhere to stay with their young child and spent two weeks with only a stool to sleep on….”

More horror stories from Russian child hospitals

Andy Potts

March 12, 2010



Soviet Union – Bad medicine: Drug shortages, ‘black market’ prescriptions and inability to provide needed care

“Medicines for some serious illnesses–heart problems, cancer and psychological disorders–have long been in scarce supply; now they often cannot be found at all. Even the most basic drugs–simple pain relievers, laxatives, antiseptics and the like–have disappeared from most drugstores.”

“Surgeons have declined to operate because they run out of solutions for post-operative intravenous feeding. Diabetics go into shock because they cannot get their insulin prescriptions filled.”

“Only 30% of the demand for drugs will be met next year, Denisov said, unless there are drastic changes in the production of pharmaceuticals. Already this year, supply is likely to meet only 75% of demand, compared to 80% to 90% in recent years.”

“The old system under which the state planned, produced and distributed medicines–and virtually everything else–is collapsing through its own inefficiency….”

“As drugs disappear, people go to great lengths to get medicines. “A black market for medicines always existed, but now it has become huge,” said Lena M. Vrono, a psychiatrist. “The frightening thing is they sell these drugs by the pill, so there is no way to guarantee their safety, especially if there is no name on the tablet.””

“Diabetics are often brought into my ward in shock because there is no insulin in the drugstores–this is horrible,” Konchalovsky said. “People die because of it.”

“Doctors say the shortages prove false the old claim that the Soviet Union’s system of socialized medicine meets the people’s needs. “Maybe 30 or 40 years ago it was not a myth–the lowest person could get adequate care at a hospital or clinic,” Konchalovsky said. “But now there is no way to say that the level of health care here is adequate.””

Soviets’ Pain Gets Physical : The pharmaceutical industry is in disarray. Drugstores–and patients–go begging for even the most basic medicines.

Elizabeth Shogren

October 18, 1990



Comments are closed.