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‘We couldn’t get an answer anywhere else’ Omsk regional health authorities launch audit after hospitals turn away ambulances with COVID-19 patients

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Tereshchenko / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

On Wednesday, October 28, the Omsk Regional Government announced an internal investigation at the regional health ministry and the suspension of its deputy head, Anastasia Malova, for the duration of the audit. This decision came after multiple ambulances brought COVID-19 patients to the health ministry building in Omsk the day before, because none of the city’s hospitals would admit them.

Two teams of paramedics brought COVID-19 patients to the local health ministry in Omsk on the night of Tuesday, October 27, to protest the lack of available beds in hospitals throughout the city. The patients were admitted to a hospital later that night.

The first ambulance arrived at the health ministry building after 9:00 p.m. — it was carrying a 70-year-old coronavirus patient. A CT scan showed that the woman had 81 percent lung damage, but hospitals turned her away due to a lack of space. Paramedics drove the patient around Omsk for more than 10 hours. Finally, they came to the local health ministry building to ask the department’s head, Irina Soldatova, where to take the patient, local news site NGS Omsk reported

“We couldn’t get an answer anywhere else and decided to ask, maybe they’ll tell us here. The patient is 100 percent in need of hospitalization, I can’t take her home for both human and medical reasons,” a physician on the ambulance team told NGS Omsk at the time (the website didn’t specify her name).

The doctor added that her team is faced with situations where they have nowhere to take patients nearly every shift. In turn, the relatives of the elderly patient said that they had been trying to call an ambulance for three days. The woman was taken for a CT scan on October 27, but was refused admission to the hospital.

According to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, two more ambulances arrived at the regional health ministry building later that night. NGS Omsk reported that the second ambulance was carrying an 85-year-old man with 88 percent lung damage, who was also refused hospitalization. The third ambulance was carrying additional oxygen, which both patients needed.

The ambulances turned on their sirens to attract attention, the website BK55 reported. No one came out of the health ministry building, but the patients’ relatives spoke to the people at the desk. The ambulances left for Emergency Hospital Number Two soon after, the news outlet Gorod55 reported. Police officers arrived at the health ministry building a little later on.

Maxim Stupkanov, the chief physician for the Omsk Regional Ambulance Station, confirmed for Komsomolskaya Pravda that they found beds for the patients at Emergency Hospital Number Two. “There was a problem, we aren’t denying it: in the morning we drove people around the city in search of available spaces at hospitals. Now places have begun to vacate, two beds appeared at [Emergency Hospital] Two. We’re fighting on,” he said.

According to the statement on the Omsk Regional Government’s website, Governor Alexander Burkov “demanded to figure out the reasons for the failure in routing patients and punish those responsible.” The results of the regional health ministry’s internal investigation should be submitted to the governor no later than November 5. 

The Omsk Region’s Deputy Health Minister Anastasia Malova, who is in charge of emergency medical services, has been suspended for the duration of the investigation. The website ngs55.ru points out that Malova has held this position since April 30, 2020. The publication describes her as an “old friend” of Omsk Regional Health Minister Irina Soldatova, who took up her position a month before Malova’s appointment. Before moving to the Omsk Region, both Soldatova and Malova worked for the Moscow Regional Health Ministry.

According to the federal operational headquarters for the fight against the coronavirus, the Omsk Region has registered 15,196 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic (at least 5,000 of which were recorded in the last month). In total, 11,962 people have recovered from the disease and 402 have died. After the start of the epidemic’s second wave, residents of the region reported shortages of spaces at coronavirus hospitals and difficulties when calling ambulances.

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Story by Olga Korelina

Translated and updated by Eilish Hart

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