Kharkiv authorities stubbornly “reorganizing” tuberculosis epidemic
As reported here on several occasions, the Kharkiv authorities have unfolded plans which put not only the health and wellbeing of patients suffering from tuberculosis at risk, but place the public at large in danger, and could also jeopardize Kharkivs – if not Ukraines – chances of hosting Euro-2012.
The plans involve effectively closing down a major part, and eventually all tuberculosis facilities in Kharkiv itself and sending patients to units in the Kharkiv region, despite the fact that the regional facilities are also stretched to the limit.
The authorities – city and regional – are squabbling over who must finance these healthcare facilities. All use the word “reorganization”, clearly aware that the words “reduction” and “closure” are all too brutal – though much closer to the truth. The city authorities use the incredible argument that the money previously spent on maintaining the clinics is needed to prepare for Euro-2012.
By virtually closing anti-tuberculosis facilities in the city and forcing people who will most certainly not drive a BMW to travel long distances to get treatment, they are risking a serious increase in the number of cases of tuberculosis, yet are still even thinking about football.
It is highly disturbing that the authorities appear to be prepared to ignore a recommendation issued by the Ministry of Health on 6 February that the city authorities revoke their Order from 3 January which set these preposterous reductions in motion. Not to mention the outcry from medical institutions and trade unions, including the Kharkiv National Medical University and the Academy for Post-Graduate Studies, and the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
The Head of the City Department of Health has issued an order to prepare lists of patients to be discharged from three clinics by 27 February. The move is so staggeringly obviously dangerous that it seems redundant to provide a list of all the laws, as well as the Ukrainian Constitution, that the Kharkiv authorities are breaching. Suffice it to say that the list is long.
It is transparently obvious that the number of beds available must not be reduced. Even without the planned measures, there was a shortage of 1,425 beds at the beginning of this year.
As reported already, the number of people in Kharkiv (719) who contracted tuberculosis translates at 50 per 100 thousand head of population, whereas one speaks of epidemic proportions if this figure is more than 40. Of these, 321 were coughing or in other ways expelling bacteria. The figure for the Kharkiv region was 1,936, of which 1810 had an active form of the disease. 554 people died.
As of 1 January this year, there were 4,728 people with an active form of tuberculosis in the Kharkiv region. 1500 of these are coughing up or otherwise expelling contagious bacteria and need inpatient treatment. Of this number 613 (298 in the region and 315 in Kharkiv itself) have a drug-resistant form and need to be in a clinic on a permanent basis.
The Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor Vasyl Sinchuk has issued instructions to the City Prosecutor to appeal against the Order to reduce the resource facilities of Clinic No. 1. At the same time patients are being coaxed to agree to be moved to regional anti-tuberculosis units. These, however, are already overcrowded, and there is still no answer to the crucial question, this being where the patients are to go when their clinics are closed. An answer is needed urgently.