Russia’s Deadly Hospitals

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In Russia, a trip to the hospital may be what lands you in the morgue -- and that's if you ever get to the hospital in the first place. Russia needs its doctors. The country's citizens are the No. 1 smokers and the No. 4 drinkers per capita worldwide, in a region with the most rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS crisis on the planet. Russian male life expectancy is about 60 years, nearly two decades less than those of some of its neighbors not far to the west. Forty years ago, Russia was a leader in health care, ranking 22nd in the world; by 2000 it had fallen to 130th, the lowest in Europe and just four places above Sudan, according to a World Health Organization report on the world's health systems.

Free medical treatment is guaranteed under the Russian Constitution, but outside Moscow, the right to health seems to be reserved for those who can pay for private care. In some hospitals, lifesaving equipment dates back to the Soviet era, and air conditioning is a rarity -- even after 11,000 Muscovites died in a heat wave last year. In 2007, horrifying reports of child abuse surfaced. Orphaned infants left in a hospital in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg had their mouths taped in order to muffle their cries. Babies are often tied down in their cribs in understaffed hospitals. A hospital near Moscow made headlines in 2009 when two orphaned girls were repeatedly attacked by a large rat running loose in the ward. Prison hospitals are infamous for refusing adequate treatment, like one in St. Petersburg where 30 inmates perished in a six-month span this year.

Above, parents wait with their injured child at a hospital in Kazan, Russia, on June 17, 2001.


Doctors in Kazan work to install a rehabilitative device on a young girl on June 17, 2001.


A doctor checks on a patient at the Kazan hospital on June 17, 2001.


In Jan. 2009, the Siberian town of Barnaul was hit by temperatures of negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, flooding local hospitals with severe frostbite cases.


Election officials turn a maternity ward into a temporary polling station during Russia's 2008 presidential election in the town of Zelenodolsk.


Two young patients at a St. Petersburg hospital for HIV-infected children in 2004.


Children wait for breakfast in a Moscow hospital in 2006.


Feeding time in Moscow in 2006.


South Ossetian men, injured in the conflict between Georgia and Russian-backed South Ossetian separatists, lie in a North Ossetian hospital on Aug. 11, 2008.


A corridor set up as a makeshift inpatient room in the overflowing Kazan hospital in 2001.


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with a victim of the March 29, 2010 subway bombing at a Moscow hospital on the same date.


Putin visits the Turner Scientific and Research Institute for Children's Orthopedics in St. Petersburg on Oct. 26, 2009.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chats with a World War II veteran inside a therapeutic device, at a veterans' hospital outside Moscow on April 30, 2010.

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