Newsweek

The Grim Reality of Russia's Health Care System

17,500 towns and villages have no medical infrastructure.
A patient walks with a relative at the Palliative care center of the Moscow Healthcare Department.
12_02_Russia_01 Source: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty

It was late at night when Hanna Rún, a 26-year-old ballroom dancing champion from Iceland, woke up with searing chest pains in Penza, a city some 400 miles southeast of Moscow. Alarmed by her worsening condition, her Russian in-laws did what anyone else would do—they called an ambulance.

Rún would soon wish they hadn’t.

After an ambulance ride down potholed roads, Rún was placed in a hospital ward with moldy walls, filthy sheets and screaming nurses who crudely administered an intravenous drip. In the hospital’s corridors, patients sat or lay on grimy floors.

But it was the hospital’s restrooms that shocked her most. “The floor was soaking wet and muddy, and the toilet was jammed full of urine and feces,” she wrote in a blog post, since deleted, about what she called her “nightmare” in Penza. Holding her sweater over her nose to keep out the stench, Rún tried not to touch anything in the restroom: “The sink was full of blood,” she wrote.

After doctors suggested carrying out an operation to “make sure” her internal organs were “working properly,” Rún decided

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