Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinic Shows Symptoms of Medical Meltdown

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinic Shows Symptoms of Medical Meltdown

Article excerpt

The elite heart clinic that will oversee Boris Yeltsin's heart bypass operation is a portrait of neglect, from the gloomy, unheated lobby to the stray dogs that beg for food at the back door.

"Good medicine requires big money, and we don't have it," says a young emergency room doctor walking a reporter through the maze of long halls at the Russian Scientific Cardiological Complex in far western Moscow.

"The state of Soviet, and now Russian, medicine is very bad - all branches, from medical education on up - and if anyone says otherwise, he's lying," he adds. The cardiology clinic is only a small part of this enormous complex of adjoining buildings, constructed in the 1970s in that monumental Soviet style in which everything - doors, corridors, entrances - seems too big. Today, steam radiators struggle to take the chill off 15-foot-high hallways with floors of stone and walls of drafty windows. Untended courtyards are overgrown with grass and weeds. The cavernous main lobby where visitors leave their coats and wait in line for passes is dark, its fluorescent lights flickering or dead, and cloudy with cigarette smoke. Some buildings stand empty, unneeded, their plumbing shut off and everything basically left to crumble. Even in the research wing, entire floors are deserted, the scientists gone elsewhere for better pay. Bypasses Relatively Rare Yeltsin, as Russia's president, is a special case, of course, and will get the best treatment Russian and foreign specialists can offer. But his decision to have surgery in Moscow has thrown a spotlight on Russia's impoverished medical system, where expensive surgeries such as his are rare and doctors and patients alike look abroad for quality. Only a few thousand bypass operations are performed in Russia each year, compared with half a million in the United States. …

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