Ukrainian officials should be treated in Ukrainian hospitals - Tomenko

When one considers the shear scale of reforms and improvements necessary for Ukraine to close the social, legal and democratic gaps with its neighbours, it is quite an awesome task for any leadership.  That said, with regards to democracy, if Ukraine treads water long enough there is a real possibility that its neighbours will regress to where Ukraine is.  Particularly in the case of the EU institutions themselves as is becoming more and more apparent to the citizens of the EU.

However, amongst the massive amount of internal issues for Ukraine is the recovery of its health system which, certainly since independence, has been allowed to rot on a national scale if we disregard the private health care services which meet (and occasionally surpass) western standards and value for money.

That is not to say the standards of the doctors or medical staff in Ukraine is poor.  The conditions they work in and salaries they receive in the State system however are far below the expected standards of western Europeans.  My brother-in-law, for example, is a well regarded brain surgeon who on 4 occasions has been approached by the USA to relocate and work there.  He has, needless to say, refused all attempts to head-hunt him and continues to work in a State hospital in Odessa.  Not only is he a man who takes his Hippocratic oath very seriously but he is also very passionately patriotic to Ukraine.  Bravo!

Indeed, so well is he regarded that he is flown across Ukraine and Russia on occasion in order for his expertise to be practiced on the more affluent members of the Slavic society over and above his daily work with us common folk.

That brings me rather neatly to a recent bill submitted to the RADA by Tymoshenko’s top ranking RADA man, Mykola Tomenko, Deputy Chairman of the RADA.  He has issues with the top politicians seeking medical treatment outside Ukraine, something which he considers undermines and stunts the development of the national health system in Ukraine.

Naturally, we can pass a cynical eye over the timing of this, not only with an election on the very near horizon, but we can also ponder why it was not submitted when his political leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, was doing all she could to get treatment in Germany for so many months, instead of in Ukraine.

Now it has become clear such treatment will not be forthcoming in Germany for her, all of a sudden, a bill stating all  politicians should be treated in Ukraine is forthcoming. - Hmmm!

Notwithstanding this particular issue, it is commonplace for politicians who are about to be held accountable for their actions, disappear and suddenly reappear in foreign hospitals with apparently serious conditions.  Just not serious enough to have ever stopped their nefarious acts prior to any investigation of course.

Now he does have a point, more famous/infamous/affluent public figures attending Ukrainian hospitals, who would most certainly subsequently complain loudly and publicly about the conditions within State hospitals would not be a bad thing.  However, everybody in Ukraine is quite well aware of the condition of Ukrainian State maintained and State run hospitals.  That is the reason why the famous/infamous/affluent choose to seek medical treatment abroad in the first place.  It is not news to anybody.

We should also not turn a blind eye to the fact that when Mr Tomenko was in power and holding a very senior position within Ms Tymoshenko’s party,  they actually did nothing to remedy the issues of State provided medical care and the conditions Ukrainian doctors have to work within.

In fact the only major stories I recall health related during the time he and his party were in power concern a multi-million US$ planned hospital by ex-President Yushenko’s wife that never appeared (but the money disappeared), and Ms Tymoshenko  jerking her knee over a flu pandemic that never came and paying well over the odds for vaccines that were never used.  There was also an issue of buying numerous new ambulances at inflated costs via a protracted and opaque procurement prior to the Presidential election in 2009/10 and slapping “Vote Yulia” stickers all over them, but that is about it.

Anyway, returning to this bill submitted by Tomenko, it does raise questions about free choice, free markets and personal liberties.  I have a close friend who owns a very well known restaurant in central Odessa who has problems with one of his legs.  He regularly goes to Germany for treatment.  3 or 4 times a year in fact.

Now he could go to a hospital like Into-Sana in Odessa (which is accepted by all major US medical insurers and is outstanding I will add) but he likes to visit Germany and wander about whilst there when not being treated.

Why should he be allowed to freely go to Germany for treatment and yet any Ukrainian politician or senior official be prevented from doing so because of the office they hold?  Why should their rights to seek treatment where ever they choose be curtailed?

Heaven forbid Mr Tomeko has a very serious health issue, but if he does, is he, despite his wealth and considerable influence, going to stay in Ukraine in a standard State run hospital?  At the very least one suspects he will go to a private Ukrainian hospital which is financially just as far out of the reach of many Ukrainians as being treated abroad.

Normally I have time for Mr Tomenko as he is one of the better and more considered politicians within the BYuT camp, however, this is the second time this year I find myself at odds with his policies or public statements regarding personal freedoms and liberties.

Quite simply, any Ukrainian citizen, regardless of office or public persona, should have the right to freely choose where they will be treated for whatever ailments they have if they can afford to do so.

What Mr Tomeko should be thinking about, should he be returned to the governing powers after the October elections, is how to repair and maintain the existing hospitals Ukraine has, how to increase the wages of the health staff employed by the State, and how to effectively implement those upgrades without the budget being pocketed by corrupt and nefarious central government and regional officials.

That would do far more for the development of the State health services than attempting to force MPs to be treated in Ukrainian hospitals.