Visit to Minsk Hospital No.6

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Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited Minsk Hospital No.6 on 27 November.

Igor Yurkevich, the chief physician of the hospital, reported to Aleksandr Lukashenko that more than a thousand employees are providing medical care to patients with coronavirus. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the hospital have treated 5,500 people with COVID-19. Now there are 767 patients in the hospital, 28 of them are in intensive care.

The average salary in the hospital in October exceeded Br2,200. The average salary of doctors is more than Br3,300, that of the mid-level medical staff – Br2,400, and other employees – Br1,036. "Doctors working in the ICU get about Br7,000-9,000,” stressed Igor Yurkevich. “People have grown used to the good salary and are happy to work. Young specialists have purchased apartments thanks to these allowances."

“This work is of paramount importance. If a person works in the red zone, he or she needs to get a high salary,” the President said.

After hearing out the reports, Aleksandr Lukashenko went to the unit with coronavirus patients. The head of state is also expected to get familiar with the transfusiology center of the hospital. Here, the head of state was told how the blood donation process is organized. According to specialists, the hospital receives 120-150 blood, plasma and platelet donors a day. “Every donor is examined for the number of antibodies,” the President was told.

Among the blood donors there was also a doctor. “She needs to treat people, and you take her blood as well,” Aleksandr Lukashenko joked.

When visiting the hospital, the President spoke about the intention of the Polish authorities to attract Belarusian medics. "We need to treat our patients, but we are prepared to help Poland. But let's do it in the right way: if they ask, we will send a brigade to help them," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the high coronavirus infection rate is a very serious problem for the country and for him as the head of state although Belarus already encountered the problem during the first wave and acquired certain experience.

The President even drew parallels between the Belarusian army of medics and the Soviet Union army during World War Two: the latter lacked experience and cohesion at the beginning of the war in 1941 but things changed radically by 1945. “The army we have now is not the army we had in 1941. It is 1945 now, the war is ending, we have a powerful army, you – commanding officers and soldiers of this army – are totally different people. It is the main conclusion of the fight against COVID-19 in Belarus.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that when the new coronavirus emerged, he warned it was very important to prevent panic as part of the efforts to counter the infection. “Psychology is the most important thing for treating these patients. It is something I told you thanks to my intuition back when this disease started taking hold here. Panic, psychology, and as I said, corona psychosis – everyone knows the term by now,” he noted. “You know my point of view, it has not changed since then. It has grown stronger, my convictions have grown stronger. Some of you, let’s be frank here, held little faith in what I said back then but have at last understood that I was right about some things.”

The head of state once again underlined that the coronavirus had stopped being a purely medical problem a long time before. “It is not only your problem [a problem for medics], it is a political, economic disease. If some country wants to separate itself from someone, it closes the border under the pretense of COVID-19. If some country wants to put political pressure on someone, it resorts to COVID-19,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out.

“It is important that the entire world has seen that back then we followed the right road,” he stated. “We travelled this road decently – the world’s only nation that did it.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also stated he is aware of the problems the medical community discusses, including in its professional Telegram channels. Some people are allegedly concerned about the truthfulness of COVID-19 death rate statistics in Belarus. “Don’t worry. Nobody deceives anyone here. Nobody needs to do that. Some say that statistic figures are falsified. But why would we? What does it mean? From the point of view of politics it may have been better in order to put our infamous protesters in their place (but they can see it already): more than half of those with a positive test result are in Minsk,” he noted.

“It is only natural. Because they roam the streets, particularly on Sundays while failing to observe social distancing,” he added.

“Let’s not follow those wannabe writers, who are trying to make waves in the Internet now. It is impossible to hide the death rate. Yes, asthma, pneumonia, and so on can be the diagnosis but the overall death figures will not go anywhere. Once the year is over, the entire statistics will be available, and medics will know the exact death toll. Nevertheless, why do they try to hype it up online?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered. “Because it is a burning issue, needs more hype. Nobody is going to hide anything. We live in a world where it is impossible to hide it, even leading countries cannot do it.”

The President explained that the visit to Minsk City Hospital No. 6 will be followed by visits to other healthcare facilities in the country's regions. According to the President, he intends to visit hospitals in each region of Belarus to personally make sure that the medical care is provided at a high level and to see how to improve the treatment process.

The head of state noted that he is likely to visit healthcare facilities in Mogilev, Grodno and Minsk Oblast.

“This is just the beginning. I intend to visit all the regions. During a critical period we need to improve the system, and we see what is missing,” the head of state said. In particular, when a shortage of computed tomography scans was revealed, a batch of CT scans was purchased and delivered to Belarus with the help of Mikhail Gutseriev.

“I want you to understand that the world economy has stopped. Things are not easy for us too. We do not have huge financial resources from oil and gas. It is not easy for us to spend a lot of money during this period. In just one year, we will spend $800 million on healthcare workers and treatment for COVID-19. It is  almost a billion dollars.  It's a colossal amount, and it's budget money. They say healthcare service is free of charge in our country. Nothing is free. It is financed from the budge. So is education. So it's very big money,” the head of state noted.

“No one will scrap coronavirus benefits [for frontline healthcare workers], they were formalized by a presidential decree, no one has the right to rescind this decree,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. At the same time, the head of state drew attention to the fact that due to these benefits, health workers are significantly ahead of a number of other public sector employees in terms of salary. In fact, the average salary of healthcare workers has reached the level that was supposed to be reached by the end of the five-year period.

Now the task is to increase salaries of people working in other sectors.

The President drew attention to other types of government support of the healthcare system, like the purchase of equipment and the necessary instruments and tools for healthcare workers.

At the meeting with the head of state, the healthcare workers mentioned that during the first wave of the pandemic they received a lot of help from volunteers and sponsors, while now these types of support are virtually non-existent. “The main reason is that our people have dropped their guard. There was an acute period, everyone was vocal and fearful ... And then they just let it go. Secondly, there was a lot of politics involved. A lot of people were seeking public attention. They got it, released some posts and stopped,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that Belarus will cope with the situation on its own. “Let us treat people on our own,” he said. However, he promised to help with volunteers: “We just did not make proper arrangements. There should be volunteers. Study this issue with volunteers, especially in Minsk, we need to help,” he said.

The head of state recalled that the Russian authorities suggested giving Belarus a strain of the vaccine that can be produced in the country. The Russian business community wanted to pitch it and provide financing. “However, I believe that a state-owned company should do this. Our enterprises are able to produce this vaccine. There is a possibility that this infection will stay here forever and we will have to get vaccinated against it like against flu. Therefore, we need to produce this vaccine,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President emphasized that Belarus will find an opportunity to start producing a vaccine at the Belmedpreparaty pharmaceutical company.

Speaking about what measures are taken to counteract the coronavirus infection, Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the establishment of special staffs in the regions and the important role that municipal authorities play. “Thank god, we have a power vertical. You may have noticed that our infamous protesters primarily strike at the President and the power vertical. They want democracy, they want to elect everyone… We saw that in Gorbachev’s time,” he reminded. “Back then we could elect everyone, including heads of enterprises. What did we elect in the end? We lost the country and the USSR collapsed. Now they want us to fall for the same dirty trick.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed he is in favor of amending the Constitution and is convinced it is necessary to adjust the head of state’s powers. “I am a proponent of the new Constitution. Not because we need some democracy. Democracy is not the point,” he said. “In this situation I am concerned about something else: we cannot give this Constitution to an unknown President. It will be a disaster.”

“We have a very serious Constitution. Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus are probably the three advanced countries that have such a serious and rigid Constitution in which everything depends on the President’s decisions. From this point of view since I understand that, god forbid, if the new President wants to start a war and the rest… Yes, we need to create a new Constitution but it should benefit the country. I don’t want the country to fall to ruin later on,” Aleksandr Lukashenko explained.

Aleksandr Lukashenko commented on proposals to elect members of the parliament in accordance with party lists and respectively to set up political parties. He is convinced that the implementation of these initiatives may split the society and lead to the emergence of groups with different interests. “It’s all well and good when you see it in other countries – party lists and the rest. But if you want it and the nation votes in favor of it, it will happen. I am not going to shape the Constitution to suit my needs. I am not going to be the President once the new Constitution is in place. This is why calm down and weather it calmly. I will never allow someone to hit the wrong note in the course of adopting the new Constitution or rig an election in line with the new Constitution later on. Even if I know it is not something I want. Why? Because the Belarusian nation has to go through what it needs to go through. We’d better do it now, without a war. It would be worse if we are forced to go to war.”

“We plan significant reforms in the country’s higher education system next year. The focus will be made on the employer-sponsored education: an entrant is sent to the medical university, studies there, gets assistance and scholarship, and has a guaranteed workplace after graduation,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The housing issue was also touched upon during the meeting. The head of state stressed that representatives of many professions, not only healthcare workers, are in need of better housing. He said that special attention is currently paid to the construction of rental apartments, the development of satellite towns.

“We will continue the policy of providing specialists with affordable housing,” the President stressed.

When meeting with the staff of Minsk City Clinical Hospital No. 6 Aleksandr Lukashenko cited excerpts from the reports of the special services regarding the attitude of Western politicians to the events in Belarus and their plans for the country.

According to the head of state, he received the information “about what is happening around Belarus” from the State Security Committee just the day before the visit. “These are the originals,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko quoted the Polish prime minister: "The future of Belarus is of great importance for Poland. The western territories of Belarus historically belong to Poland… Warsaw has taken many concrete steps to help the Belarusian revolution: provided financial support through Polish and Polish-American programs of solidarity with the victims of the Lukashenko regime, invited Belarusian students, eased the border crossing rules, and provided support for independent media and NGOs.”

According to the President, the Polish officials call on NATO to establish special security forces in the armies of the Baltic states and Poland. According to the plan, these forces could be used to fight against the Belarusian authorities. “The successful revolution in Belarus is also in Poland's national interests,” Aleksandr Lukashenko continued quoting the Polish prime minister.

The President said: “This conversation took place on 31 August: ‘It is still early for the direct talks between the regime and the opposition. Lukashenko’s regime is still too united, the army and KGB support him, and workers do not support any revolution at all. We need to wait and watch the situation unfold.’

According to the head of state, Poland proposed to create a situation in Belarus in which the country’s economy collapses, the national currency depreciates and store shelves go empty. “We need to convince Turkey, Greece, Azerbaijan, and Armenia not to export food products because of the coronavirus situation,” the President voiced the plans of Poland.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that in September the Polish government came to the conclusion that it was impossible to change the situation in Belarus by military force.

“However, we have to be prepared for this scenario in any case. We have to address two problems. First of all, we must get prepared for a military solution to the problem, launch the appropriate mechanisms that are necessary for this. Secondly, we must show Russia that we are against it using any armed forces in Belarus,” they said in Poland.

During the meeting, Aleksandr Lukashenko also cited excerpts from Pavel Latushko's conversation with the Czech minister of foreign affairs. According to Latushko, “the democratic opposition has never had such good chances to overthrow the dictatorship in Belarus as it does now”. He spoke of the need for international recognition of the so-called coordinating council. “The coordinating council believes that the main goal is to isolate the process of constitutional reform proposed by Lukashenko,” the President continued.

“They don’t need any constitution, they don’t need any constitutional changes,” the head of state stressed. “If we adopt a new Constitution, powers will be shared between different branches. Meanwhile they need a President with the current powers.”

According to the head of state, the coordinating council advocated a military solution to the situation in Belarus during contacts with the West.

In October, Poland faced a political crisis. The pandemic led to economic problems. “The government needs alternative solutions. It is necessary to use the revolution in Belarus to our advantage. If Putin wants to normalize relations with the West, he must give up on Lukashenko,” the President quoted the Polish prime minister as saying. He called these statements as particularly cynical and unique.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he had never asked the Russian authorities for help. According to the head of state, Vladimir Putin, having learned about the events in Belarus, offered the help himself. He understood that Russia would be next.

The information provided by the KGB also contained a part of the conversation between the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs and his German counterpart: “We are losing the momentum without taking decisive steps. The European Union should impose sanctions against Belarus to paralyze the state, business and industry.”

“What is their interest here?” the President expressed his surprise. “Even Russians have always asked me: “Why do you support Ukrainians?” he added.

However, despite brotherly relations between the Belarusian and Ukrainian people, a center of information influence on Belarus has been set up near Kiev, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Ordinary Ukrainians treat us very well, because we treat them the same. However, it is so cynical of them: ‘we need to catch up, we have to destroy Belarus as quickly as possible’,” he added.

The head of state also read out the speech of one of the EU foreign ministers at the meeting held ahead of the presidential election in Moldova: “We plan to oust Russia out of Ukraine and Moldova. We will promote the integration of these countries into NATO, perhaps even within the Eastern Partnership.”

Speaking at the same meeting was a representative of the United States: “In Russia we want to accelerate the disintegration process: local authorities should receive more powers, while the powers of the central government should be curbed. We will support the internal conflict in the Russian society. The current leadership in Russia may lose power due to events in Belarus.”

The President stressed that the West is interested in the crisis in Belarus in order to weaken Russia. The EU politicians view it as a historic chance to undermine Russia’s influence. “This is their ultimate goal, and we are a barrier on this path. They want to test it in our country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

However, according to the head of state, some leaders of the European Union countries positively assess the power structure in Belarus. The President did not name them, but read out some excerpts: “Belarus is pursuing the right policy, keeping its economy in the hands of the state. Belarus would not exist without a strong power vertical. We are pursuing our national development goals, with state-owned companies and banks at the heart of it. President Lukashenko understands it right that there must be unity in the leadership. We must learn from the experience of Belarus, we must have a strong ideological basis.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained that he shared this information so that people could understand his intentions and actions. “It should also encourage some people to assess their own actions,” he added.

The President stressed that Belarus is capable of responding to aggression, including military aggression. “We all want sovereignty and independence, but independence is a very expensive thing. If the Belarusian people are ready to maintain this independence, to fight for it, no matter what it takes, let’s fight. Otherwise, we will be thrown back, deprived of what we have, and will be forced to toil and moil for somebody else. That’s how I feel. Hence my actions,” he head of state noted.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, he signed a decree to appoint Dmitry Pinevich Belarus’ healthcare minister on the morning of 27 November. “In view of the coronavirus, this is a token of great trust,” the President stressed.

Before the new appointment, Dmitry Pinevich was first deputy healthcare minister and recently served as acting healthcare minister.