During the government conference held on 11 September to discuss problems in the healthcare system and personnel appointments Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko explained the large-scale measures taken to root out corrupt healthcare workers.
According to the head of state, today’s government conference has been prompted primarily by the need to address the problems plaguing the healthcare system. “Due to the scale of the problems we cannot limit our response to simply appointing new officials,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.
“Since last year I’ve been getting reports that the number of corruption-related cases in the healthcare system has risen drastically – it has nearly doubled. Unfortunately, corruption can happen everywhere but instead of individual cases the problem has become systemic in the healthcare system,” said the head of state. “Not only individual officials have been affected but virtually the entire structure starting with private practitioners, military, civil servants and ending with the Healthcare Ministry, or maybe further than that, the investigation will show. I’ve given instructions to find not just someone to take the blame but to root out this plague completely, to dig deep to reach the key organizers of this unlawful state of affairs. So there is no need to speculate about it. It was my instruction to the oversight and law enforcement agencies. I’ve given you the reasons,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
The head of state explained that the most important thing was to detect the reasons, which had led to 95 criminal cases so far, with dozens of millions of U.S. dollars in criminal funds. Nearly 100 people are now being investigated as a result of the crackdown. “Once the investigation is over, the courts will decide who is guilty and how much. But there are no doubts about the facts that have been uncovered,” stressed the head of state.
Alexander Lukashenko also said he believes that although the investigation effort had been massive, the State Security Committee had managed to do the work in a calm and accurate manner. “I think other agencies could learn from this experience in order to avoid breaking down organizations, to avoid snatching who you can take, and leave the organizations working as usual if possible because other employees don’t have to suffer. The innocent must never bear the responsibility,” stressed the head of state.
“Everyone here has been invited to attend the conference for a reason. I deemed it necessary to personally invite the people, who, due to their functions and official duties, are responsible for the dearest treasure of our country – lives and health of the people,” continued the head of state. “Apart from that, healthcare also represents a significant part of the economy. More Belarusians work in the healthcare system than in the transport and communications industries combined – about 270,000 people. The healthcare industry contributes nearly as much – 3.2% – as the civil engineering industry to the gross domestic product.”
According to the President, the general public has been stirred up for the last six months due to the investigation of these crimes in the healthcare system.
“I wanted everyone to know this information and I wanted no complaints about the harsh approach to the matter,” explained Alexander Lukashenko. “We are talking about people’s health and massive investments poured into the healthcare system. Some people wanted to pocket some of it via prices for medical equipment and medications. The last thing I want is for these scandalous crimes to affect the nation’s attitude to the domestic healthcare system. Such cases must not besmirch honest and decent healthcare workers, doctors, and nurses. And naturally decent people represent the majority in the Belarusian healthcare system.”
The President said he wanted no one to be punished for no good reason. He said he wanted the innocent ones to walk free. “As for those entangled in the web of corruption, we will pull them out and put them where they should be. It is publicly acknowledged that I often say that,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.
As it was mentioned, this conversation was long overdue because the problems had been accumulated. However, against the backdrop of significant achievements in the Belarusian healthcare industry some drawbacks and problems were overlooked. In certain cases these issues degenerated into systematic violations.
“Probably, these achievements and accolades from international organizations, the WHO and so on made you overenthusiastic. You did not pay enough attention. People complain about long queues in outpatient clinics, rudeness of doctors. You can see it in mass media reports all over the Internet, in social networks,” the head of stat said.
“There are always negative comments in social polls. People complain about indifference, bad attitude, especially in places where they get medical treatment,” Alexander Lukashenko said. “Look at how ordinary people comment on your work. There are many problems in the industry, but you do not pay enough attention.”
The President asked senior officials of the healthcare industry why such facts, including corruption cases, happened. “Why did it happen? Please explain because people should know the reasons. The activities of about 100 people are under investigation. But 270,000 people working in the healthcare industry also suffered a blow to their reputation. It is wrong because they are honest and hardworking people. They are not to blame for the actions of bribe takers in the Healthcare Ministry, heads of certain organizations. They tucked away hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why did it happen and how could it happen? I told you this issue was a priority when I appointed you,” the head of state said addressing Healthcare Minister Vasily Malashko. Similar questions were addressed to First Deputy Healthcare Minister Dmitry Pinevich.
Alexander Lukashenko reminded that during the visit to one of the hospitals he warned the then vice premier, Vasily Zharko, to analysis the pricing situation. “You told me everything was okay. But it wasn’t. I warned you about the responsibility for the system. Do not blame anyone,” the Belarusian leader stressed. “What have you been doing? Your subordinates were caught. Now tell me honestly how you are going to run the ministry. If you cannot do it everything will be just worse.”
“We will not offer excuses. First of all, we are ashamed of the dishonesty of certain officials. Of course, it is hard explain the behavior of some of them. But at the same time we are planning to change the system in general. The transparency of purchases should be a priority,” the minister said.
Valery Malashko reported on measures to straighten things up in the industry, raise the quality of healthcare services at various levels, ensure the necessary range of medications and reasonable prices, guarantee the transparency of tenders, improve personnel management.
The minister promised to do his best to improve and stabilize the system.
The ministry officials were instructed to solve problems and eradicate corruption by the beginning of 2019. It is important to improve the reputation of the agency. According to the President, there will be a big conference to discuss the state of affairs in the industry and its prospects at the beginning of the year.
Alexander Lukashenko stressed that there will be severe punishment for any violations.
At the session the President authorized the appointment of a number of executives in the healthcare system.
The head of state authorized the appointment of Boris Androsyuk as a deputy healthcare minister.
Nikolai Kudenchuk has been put in charge of the medical equipment sale, repair and maintenance company Belmedtekhnika.
Valentina Ignatenko has been put in charge of the nationwide drugstore chain operator Belpharmatsiya.