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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Eviction at Clinic Risks Ill Patients




The post-Soviet era has not been kind to Russia's health-care system. For the average Russian, the chances of getting quality care at a local state-managed polyclinic are much, much lower than just 10 years ago. Dwindling state finances have meant fewer funds to keep the country's best doctors and nurses from defecting to higher-paying commercial hospitals and clinics, and fewer funds to maintain state-owned facilities. State clinics have trouble finding money to repaint cracked, peeling walls, much less to buy advanced medical technology.


So it is a miracle that Moscow's Sklifosovsky Institute, home to one of Europe's premier serious burns units, has managed to stay on the cutting edge of medicine. About 50,000 patients a year receive free treatment at the institute, which in addition to the burns unit, also features a brand new $8 million liver transplant facility recently installed by the Moscow city government.


But by order of the State Property Committee, the institute is about to be evicted from the Prospekt Mira facility that it has occupied since its founding in 1923. It seems that in 1995 someone at the property committee felt the institute's space could be better used by the Museum of Medicine, which currently shares the property.


Officials from Sklifosovsky have accused the museum of lobbying to have the institute evicted so it can take over the space and lease it to commercial ventures. They say that of the space the museum already occupies much is rented out to nonmedical businesses.


The museum lamely defends itself by claiming that the businesses, including a restaurant, are used for fund-raisers to benefit the poor. Museum officials say they don't want to evict burn patients but argue that the institute has had years to find a new home.


The Sklifosovsky Institute admits it has no legal basis for its pleas that the federal government step in and stop the eviction. Instead, institute officials have lobbied for intervention on moral grounds, pointing out that many of their patients' grip on life is so tenuous that any move could kill them.


Their appeals have thus far fallen on deaf ears. Despite having the backing of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Patriarch Alexy II, Sklifosovsky officials have had no luck in their search for a federal official to reverse the eviction.


Someone in the government must stand up and act to put the eviction on hold before lives are lost. The government should conduct a thorough review of the property committee's decision and investigate the institute's charges that the space will be used for purposes other than a medical museum. Under no circumstances should eviction be allowed to go forward if patients are put at risk.