Failure of the National Project in Healthcare: Human Rights Defenders Ask the General Prosecutor’s Office to Investigate the Ministry of Health and Social Development

posted 1 Mar 2011, 10:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Mar 2011, 10:12 ]
Source: (info), 08/02/11

· Social Rights

Human rights defenders have asked General Prosecutor Yury Chaika to prosecute Tatiana Golikova, Minister of Health and Social Development, for failing to implement the state prosecutor’s orders.

On 8 February 2011 the Agora Association of Human Rights Organizations filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office demanding a second investigation into the disruption of the National Healthcare Project by the Ministry of Health.

Under the National Healthcare Project in Russia the Ministry of Health and Social Development is obliged to purchase vitally important antiviral drugs that block the development of AIDS for HIV-infected individuals, including prisoners in correctional institutions.

However, according to an appeal by Agora to the General Prosecutor’s Office, in 2009-2010 the Ministry of Health and Social Development “did not meet its obligations, resulting in the violation of citizens’ rights, and also the failure of the National Project in Healthcare.” To support their charge, Agora’s legal analysts cited examples of a number of incidents that occurred in different regions of Russia, including court cases in Tula and Arkhangelsk.

In November 2010, as a result of the investigation of a complaint by member of the State Duma Mikhail Grishankov, the General Prosecutor’s Office established that the Ministry of Health and Social Development “had not been purchasing anti-viral drugs…for a long time. As a result of the delay in issuing an order, the institutions of the Ministry of Health and of the Federal Penitentiary Agency lacked medications for citizens suffering from immune deficiency disorders.”

As a result, on 1 December 2010 the Office of the General Prosecutor informed the Ministry of Health and Social Development of Russia that “in Primorye, Moscow, Tula, Omsk, Ulyanovsk and Chelyabinsk regions there is a shortage of antiretroviral medication for treatment of HIV-infected people on State contracts signed in 2010.” These violations resulted from the inadequate legal work of the Ministry of Health and Social Development on purchases of diagnostic medicaments and antiretroviral drugs.

At the end of every year the Russian government decides on the purchase and distribution of diagnostic medicaments and antiretroviral drugs. In order to execute the government’s orders, the Ministry of Health and Social Development must establish rules regulating the purchase and distribution of the drugs. However, in 2009 and in 2010, the Ministry of Health and Social Development published the necessary regulations only at the end of the first quarter, when supplies of these vital medications had already been exhausted in the regions. The General Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed this fact. According to the law, the Ministry headed by Tatiana Golikov should have responded to the points raised by the General Prosecutor’s Office within one month.

In 2011, the Ministry of Health and Social Development was supposed to prevent similar violations and to issue regulations in a timely manner. According to a government regulation adopted on 31 December 2010, the Ministry of Health and Social Development should have issued the requisite regulations by 1 February 2011. However, as the human rights defenders underline in their appeal to the General Prosecutor’s Office, as of 8 February 2011 the Ministry of Health has implemented neither the rulings of the government or of the General Prosecutor’s office.

Moreover, the Health Ministry’s 2011 schedule, posted on the Ministry’s official website, for purchasing and distribution, implementation of work and provision of services for government serves as proof of the Ministry’s failure in the purchase and distribution of drugs. According to this schedule, the Ministry plans only to distribute drugs for the treatment of immune deficiency disorders, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and institute a system of tests for diagnosing immune deficiency disorders and hepatitis B and hepatitis, by 15 November 2011, in other words by the end of the current year.

According to the human rights defenders: ‘The General Prosecutor’s Office in its ruling paid particular attention to the untimely holding of tenders and signing of contracts. It is obvious from the data here cited that the Ministry for Health and Social Development has not taken steps to remedy the violations identified.

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation has accredited the Agora Association as an independent expert to act as an investigator in cases of suspected corruption. Agora conducted an independent investigation of the Health Ministry’s draft plans dated 25 January for the consideration of tenders for the provision of antiretroviral drugs. The experts concluded that the draft plans contained elements that encouraged corrupt practices since there was no definition of the procedure or terms for the agreement of changes to applications, confirmation of the volumes of drugs to be purchased, or regulations concerning the placement of government orders for the drugs. In addition to Duma member Mikhail Grishankov, the Public Chamber has also shown an interest in this matter and plans to conduct hearings into the situation. Meanwhile, the heads of a number of AIDS centers informed Agora that they have serious concerns about delays in the delivery of vitally important drugs for HIV positive individuals in 2011.

This year, the National Healthcare Project was to purchase 39 types of drug at a total cost of RUR 19 billion for the benefit of persons infected with the HIV virus.

Pavel Chikov, law professor and director of Agora, said: ‘Last year the purchase of drugs was accompanied by numerous violations. There are reasons to believe that maintaining the current system for the purchase of drugs benefits people who have a financial interest in the situation. We are talking here about unscrupulous bookkeeping and the embezzlement of government funds.’
Rights in Russia,
1 Mar 2011, 10:12