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Doctors vs. Medical Monopoly

April 22, 2008
Maka Malakmadze, Batumi

“Government must not be mother for somebody but rather a step-mother for others.”

Medical personnel of the Batumi Central Clinic complain about how their hospitals are being flogged off. They take exception to the government claims of “100 new Hospitals.”

Ten hectares of land with adjoining buildings that covers the entire territory of the Central Clinic was sold for symbolic price of 1,000 USD. The Georgian Ministry of Economic Development can now celebrate that it has privatized hospitals. The medical personnel state that Paata Kurtanidze, the owner of the Pharmaceutical Company “Aversi” visited them and introduced himself as the new owner.

“Today, most hospitals in Georgia have been or are being purchased by pharmaceutical firms, which means, aside from being a conflict of interests, that a complete monopoly is being established for the sale of drugs and medical services.  The new owner explained to us that our salaries will be increased.  However, he also added that they will work based on free market principles. This means that the hospital will work for profit and will not accept patients are not afford to pay for prescribed medical treatment. Everybody appreciates high salaries but we cannot accept the concept of hospital’s working only based on commercial principle,” said the medical personnel of the Batumi Central Clinic.

The doctors demand to assign them hospital to operate as private property. Doctor Zurab Chikhladze stated “it would be better if one thousand doctors with have an average income will run the hospital than the state creates the monopolist management over such property. We, doctors working at this hospital could purchase our clinic with the same conditions. I directly stated to Paata Kurtanidze that when he was importing glucose for five GELS I was doing operations for that amount of money. The government is treating doctors dishonestly. We have the right to run hospitals ourselves and we are capable of doing it better than anyone else. “Government must not be a mother for somebody and step-mother to others.” 

The doctors are afraid that the hospital because of its location will change the profile in the nearest future. “We do not have a guarantee that in future the establishment will change its profile. The new owner will have right to open whatever he desires in the building of the current hospital”.

Medical staff state the plan of the new owner contradicts with the situation that exists in Batumi. “The new owner promises to invest ten million GELS and to install 100 beds in the hospital. We want people and the state to know that 100 beds will not be enough to serve people because currently fifteen departments work in the hospital and there must be two 250-bed-hospitals in Batumi.”

“I have been working already now 44 years; I have spent every third night in this hospital. We, the medical personnel could run the hospital and begin even a better hospital. We are the personnel who endured the unpaid salaries in 1990s, lack of electricity, medicines, etc. After all that, have not we deserved to be asked whether we appreciated the idea of selling out the hospital or?” asked Doctor Nabri Mikeladze.

Medical personnel connect increase in prices of medicines with the state program of “100 New Hospitals”. “In comparison to winter, the prices on medicines have increased at 30 % because there is now a monopoly on medicines. After all hospitals will become the properties of the Pharmaceutical companies, you can imagine what will happen next?!”

The employees of the hospital appealed to the government of the Adjara Autonomous Republic. “We urge the government of the Adjara Autonomous Republic to leave at least one hospital in Adjara that will serve the interests of both poor and rich,” reads the appeal.

Doctors of the Batumi Central Clinic do not exclude that they will be suppressed after this article is published. “They might even demand that we keep quiet,” they said.