Foreign Policy Blogs

Kazakhstan Medical Service : First, do no harm?

Kazakhstan's medical services have been under fire recently for the deplorable medically-assisted spread of HIV virus among 96 schoolchildren via transfusions.  Eight schoolchildren in the region of Shymkent have already died.  Kazakhstan's Health Minister, Yerbolat Dosaev, and the Southern Kazakhstan governor Bolat Jylkyshiev, were dismissed.  Twenty-one doctors and medical officials are on trial, and other medical staff have been fired. 

Part of the problem stems from the spectre of  underpaid health workers ($50.00 per month).  In order to augment their income, they require patients to make illicit payments in order to schedule medical visits.

HIV also increases susceptibility to tuberculosis.  IRIN agency writes that the tuberculosis rate in Kazakhstan, though trending downward, still records 23,000 new cases per year.  40% of TB sufferers have drug-resistant strains of the disease.  Fifty-percent of Kazakhstanis affected by TB are unemployed; fifty-percent are also 18 to 34 years of age, making TB a long-term problem for the health system and national economic productivity. 

Though this article trumpets the managment of medical service in Kazakhstan in TB care, the relationship of poverty and medical system graft evident in the HIV scandal seems to give lie to that evaluation.

And this weekend, Agence France-Presse (AFP) featured the long-term medical problems from Semipalatinsk, the Soviet Union's above-ground nuclear testing facility.  In this article, a 58-year old victim of the nuclear fallout was told she must have a third operation on her throat: since the doctors had botched the second operation, she refused.  Her medical status as a Semipalatinsk victim was immediately revoked.  Therefore, her medical benefits were cut off.

The real question here:  After the fleeting attention from the HIV trials, what permanent systemic changes does the Health Ministry plan to make?

Information on Semipalatinsk from Kazakhstan's Embassy to the US
More information on medical ethics –the origin of “do no harm”