Neither doctors nor the sick understand patient rights in Russia

Posted by Evgenia Borovkova "Global Call to Action Against Poverty" Development Officer

20th Jan 2012

Free healthcare is a right for all in Russia, thanks to obligatory insurance. Yet healthcare providers often seek additional payments from patients - both formal and informal. The poor often cannot afford these payments, and do not know in which cases their rights are being violated when they are asked to pay.

Free healthcare is a right for all in Russia, thanks to obligatory insurance. Yet healthcare providers often seek additional payments from patients - both formal and informal. The poor often cannot afford these payments, and do not know in which cases their rights are being violated when they are asked to pay.

Since 2008, Oxfam and its partners in the Russian branch of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) have been operating Information and Consulting Centres to inform poor men and women of their medical rights, and to provide legal support when their rights are violated. The centres help more than 160 people per month through direct consultations, and thousands more through lectures and meetings, information pamphlets, and a website.

However, Oxfam's work with GCAP recently uncovered an even more disturbing discovery: healthcare workers are also unaware of patients' rights. Oksana Aleksandrova is professor of health law at the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, and scientific consultant to the branch of the project in Tyumen, a Siberian city on the Tura River. As she describes it, "the horror lay in the fact that medical professionals know very little about the rights of citizen. A large proportion of violations related to the fact that healthcare providers really think they are doing everything right."

Aleksandrova has championed a joint working approach with regional insurance funds, rather than taking every violation case to court. "In conflict situations, [health professionals] are vulnerable because of their ignorance", she says. The work has already brought significant progress. Moreover, it has been complemented by the next stage of Oxfam's healthcare project: the establishment of public councils at health facilities to advise patients and professionals on their rights and duties. In these councils, doctors, local government officials and charities come together to provide advice and information, and to communicate the proposals of patients to the management of clinics.

Alexandrova is positive about the continuation of the project. Moreover, she sees potential for expansion: "The area for further work concerns scrutiny of health organisations. In Europe, routine quality control of medical care given by doctors is always performed by professional experts. The problem is that our health care system is completely controlled by the medical community. And herein lies the future of the project. "

Oxfam's work in Russia

Blog post written by Evgenia Borovkova

"Global Call to Action Against Poverty" Development Officer

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