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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Elite Moscow Hospital Gives Quality Care to a Lucky Few

Don't try to tell Texan J.T. Peoples that Russia's medical system is in chaos.

"Hell no!" Peoples declared in his Beaumont, Texas, twang.

The 60-year-old U.S. Embassy electrical engineer said his major symptom was "death. ... I figured I only had a few hours."

Doubled over in pain from diverticulitis and a perforated abdomen, Peoples was relatively lucky. As an employee of the U.S. Embassy, he qualified for admission to the most advanced medical facility in the country, Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital.

"The equipment here looks good," he said, when asked to compare his care at the Kremlin Hospital to U.S. facilities. "The doctors are really good. The cardiovascular surgeon -- I asked him, 'How good are you?' and he said, 'Very good!' And he was, darn it."

It's no wonder Peoples felt right at home last spring, experts say. He practically was. The floor where Peoples recuperated from surgery has wall-to-wall pile carpeting from the United States, walls papered in American synthetic fabrics and lovely American sofas on which patients rest while watching U.S. television and reading U.S. magazines. The Stars and Stripes even hang right next to the Russian tricolor in the front lobby.

A plaque on the wall reads: "Training for the unit has been provided by the following health care members of Premier Health Alliance, Chicago, Illinois, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development and American International Health Alliance." It lists 10 American hospitals that helped train the Russian staff.

This is where Russian President Boris Yeltsin gets his heart treatments and checkups. Seventy percent of the patients are members of parliament or Yeltsin's cabinet and top staff. The rest are either Western embassy personnel like Peoples or executives from the newly privatized major corporations and banks of Russia.

The staff members also speak English, and many also speak French and German. A room runs $200 to $300 a day, and cardiac bypass surgery runs $3,000 "or a little more," says Dr. Marina Ugryumova, director of the center's cardiology unit.

Patients on the cardiac ward are monitored 24 hours a day by nurses who sit at fully computerized American workstations. Patients can maneuver freely in new wheelchairs, which makes the Kremlin Hospital the only genuinely wheelchair-accessible medical facility seen anywhere in the former Soviet Union. Patient rooms have state-of-the-art monitors, nurse-call systems, minifridges,color televisions and private bathrooms.

"In all countries there are special hospitals where authorities -- the president -- may be treated," says Ugryumova. "I guess our hospital can be considered an example of what can be done. Yes, there is a great difference between this hospital and what exists elsewhere, even in Moscow. It's a pity, but it's a fact."