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The Challenge of Finding a Remedy for Health Care

Published: August 26, 2008 (Issue # 1402)



  • Eight-month-old Alexei Artemikhin recovering from heart failure in a hospital in the Kirov region.?
    Photo: Country of Dmitry Sedykin

MOSCOW When anesthesiologist Dmitry Sedykh was called to treat an 8-month-old suffering from heart failure this May, he found no equipment to resuscitate the baby boy.

Sedykh, the only anesthesiologist in the village of Lesnoye in the Kirov region, was summoned to the childrens ward of the local hospital to help little Alexei Artemikhin, who was in critical condition because of severe pneumonia.

The boy needed oxygen, but the hospital had no oxygen concentrator, a device used to provide oxygen therapy to patients. Like many small, rural hospitals, this one also lacked a centralized system in which oxygen is shipped through pipes. The hospital did have compressed oxygen in tanks, but because of the decrepit condition of the childrens ward, fire inspectors had banned them from being used there.

All Sedykh could find was an antiquated oxygen pillow, a rubberized sac filled with oxygen from a tank. The oxygen passes from the pillow through a plastic pipe to a humidifier, where a nasal catheter then feeds it to the lungs.

But there was not even a catheter to carry oxygen from the pillow to the babys lungs. Do you think I am a magician? Sedykh said by telephone from Lesnoye.

Sedykh took an adult oxygen mask and somehow adapted it to the babys face. To humidify the oxygen, he filled a 20-gram syringe with wet cotton, placed it between the plastic pipe and the mask. After pumping the pillow with his hands for a few minutes, he saw the boys checks take on a rosy glow. Sedykh called for a nurse.

I told her, Keep pumping this pillow. Maybe well be able to take the boy to the district hospital tomorrow, he said.

The boy needed a new pillow every 20 minutes. Nurses scurried in and out of the room as they filled pillows with oxygen from the tanks in the adult ward. The process continued day and night for a week before Alexei was finally transported to the larger district hospital in the town of Kirs.

Inventive medical treatments are just the tip of the iceberg of the health care crisis facing Russia. The country ranks a lowly 130th in terms of the effectiveness of its health care system and 127th in terms of its populations health, according to the World Health Organization. This means that the country is not only considerably behind developed Western countries but also the majority of East European and Latin American countries with a similar level of economic development.

At the same time, Russians tend to fall ill much more often than Europeans. In fact, Russians are 30 percent more likely to get sick than Europeans, according to WHO figures.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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