Queue of Death: Ukrainian Ministry of Healthcare Officials Receive Bonuses for Economising on Cancer Treatment

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The Ministry of Healthcare plays for time in order to not spend money on treating Ukrainians abroad. The social movement “For Transplantation” claims that the officials of the Ministry of Healthcare are extremely late in terms of including seriously ill Ukrainian patients on the waiting list for free treatment abroad. Instead of the established 20 days, some patients wait 3-4 months for paperwork, listen to refusals, and read formal replies. According to the activists, the officials count on seriously ill patients dying and thus succeeding to save money. The Ministry of Healthcare, according to them, gives its employees bonus for this.

For the same reason, the 112 million hryvnia allocated last year from the budget for carrying out transplantations in foreign clinics still hasn’t seen the light of day. Even in cases where the money is in the bank accounts of foreign clinics, patients are forced to continue their fight against bureaucracy in Ukraine.

“I don’t want to be an angel”

“I want to embrace my children not with wings, but with hands. I don’t want to be an angel, I want to be a real mother”
, said the 29-year-old Oksana Gergalo, crying at a press conference. Her little son and daughter ran out from the hall to embrace and support their mother.

Oksana Gergalo’s children dreaming about their mother recovering quicker.

In February Oksana was diagnosed with leukemia. Ukrainian doctors said that her chances of survival are zero. But, fortunately, they were mistaken not only in their forecasts, but also in the details of their diagnosis. Oksana went to Belarus using the money of philanthropists. There she entered remission and received the most important thing in her situation – hope.

A huge sum is needed for treatment, and the money so needed by her is already in the Belarusian clinic. It was the leftover money from former Ukrainian patients. But Oksana can’t receive it, after all, within four months the Ministry of Healthcare applied the red tape and doesn’t give the woman the documents needed to access the money. Oksana’s case is only an illustration of how the state sabotages the free treatment of patients with cancer and other serious illness abroad.

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3 people already died in 2018, not living long enough to receive treatment abroad

The head of the national movement “For Transplantation” Yury Andreyev claims that a large number of patients with serious illnesses became hostages of the situation in Ukraine. “The State isn’t in a hurry to treat patients, and for such people it’s a matter of days and hours – when it’s a question, for example, of transplanting marrow. They wait for months and receive only promises. The Ministry of Healthcare has delayed the payment for treatment for the 6-month-old Ukrainian Eva Ilyanchuk – diagnosed with a complex immunodeficiency – for more than two months. This is an orphan disease that less than 10 people in the world have been diagnosed with. She urgently needs transplantation”.

Red tape with documents also exhausts the mother of 6-year-old Ilya Nevesyoly. The boy has been in reanimation for already 2 years after he suffered cardiac arrest and can’t breathe independently – there is a need to install a diaphragmatic pacemaker.

Ilya Nevesyoly has been waiting 2 years for a decision from Ministry of Healthcare officials.

“Think about it: the Ministry of Healthcare received the documents in November, 2017. Although, according to the provision approved by Ministry of Healthcare, a maximum of 20 days are needed to register a patient (and to include them on a waiting list for free treatment abroad),” said Andreyev.

The mother of Ilya who still hasn’t been included on the Ministry of Healthcare’s treasured list, Anna Nevesyolaya, says that not enough time remains for her son. If the pacemaker isn’t installed before the diaphragm muscles become completely atrophied, the child won’t leave reanimation alive.

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“He felt bad after he was stung by a bee. He was 4 years old. He developed nosocomial pneumonia, spasms began, and his temperature rose. The child can’t breathe by himself. After a tracheostomy was done for him, he endured cardiac arrest and a coma,” said Anna. “Unfortunately, such operations aren’t carried out in Ukraine. Germany agreed to take us. But experts still haven’t draw their conclusion in order to include the child on the list. Time works against us – if the muscles atrophy, the operation will become irrelevant and he will be forced to live with the help of apparatus all this life”.

As of this moment more than 50 people stand in line for treatment abroad. Dozens more are at the stage of submitting their documents. And their quantity grows every day. Last year 17 people died before they could receive treatment abroad. Three people have already died this year, not living long enough to receive treatment abroad.

Officials of the Ministry of Healthcare receive bonuses for economisation

Now such patients as Oksana, Eva, and Ilya became hostages of the situation. The Ministry of Healthcare delays the paperwork, and money for certain programs of treatment abroad is no longer present in the budget.

“In parliament in February a draft law was registered that assumes a 300 million hryvnia increase in the program of treatment, but deputies went on vacation without having considered this initiative,” said Yury Andreyev.

According to him, this issue can be solved in a procedural way without the participation of parliament. The Cabinet of Ministers is quite capable of compensating these means using the reserve fund of the country’s budget, if there is the political will to do so.

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But such political will is absent, after all, the Ministry of Healthcare isn’t interested in spending millions on seriously ill patients and saving the lives of Ukrainians who are almost hopeless from a medical point of view. Thus, last year 20 million hryvnia allocated for treatment didn’t see the light of day – it was simply sent back to the budget. This year, from the 112 million hryvnia allocated for the pilot project on transplantation abroad, not a single kopek saw the light of day. I.e., the state allocates the money, but it doesn’t reach the patients.

“The officials of the Ministry of Healthcare receive bonuses for this! Money was returned to the budget, while last year there were still 70 people in the queue,” claims Andreyev.

According to the head of the Movement for the rights of patients Viktor Serdyuk, total and criminal irresponsibility among Ministry of Healthcare officials reigns in the country.

“All these cases of criminal inactivity, which, unfortunately, lead to deaths, must be documented and sent to court so that nobody remains unpunished. After the scandal that was settled by Mr Groisman concerning the remark (the deputy minister of healthcare Linchevsky) ‘you will all die anyway’, we continue to see examples of ‘you indeed will die'”.

Patients and human rights activists prepared a letter addressed to the Prime Minister Groisman with a request to solve the Ministry of Healthcare’s problem with financing and bureaucracy. “Such problems with patients can be solved within several hours. And Oksana Gergalo’s situation – in general in 15 minutes,” assures Serdyuk. “After all, the money is available. What’s the holdup? The fight against corruption? We have the only Ministry of Healthcare in the world that fights against corruption instead of treating people and saving lives”.

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