Medical workers are dying on their way – 308 according to unofficial medical figures. Many who continue to work do not receive paid long-term bonuses until recently. Some even earn less money because the pay rate for working with covid-19 patients is lower than their pre-pandemic jobs, such as surgeons.
The snags in delivering Putin’s bonus promise are more than just a bureaucratic glitch. It’s about a top-down management system with underlings afraid to act. It also helps inform some of the larger realities in Russia̵7;s struggle to control pandemics even as western European countries begin to raise their lockdowns.
Putin’s centralized power structure could not cope with the crisis alone. The president has placed most of the burden on regional officials, who have been afraid to draw attention to Moscow’s local problems and dangers.
One way to stay under the radar could be to eliminate cases or deaths, say analysts. With Putin’s promised bonuses, the natural inclination of regional leaders – ingrained for decades – is to reduce payments, fearing Moscow’s problems if they spend too much or pay people back who do not deserve bonuses.
Some regional officials even count the minutes that medical workers spend on infected patients.
“For Putin this is an uncomfortable position,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, director of the Moscow political tank R. Politik. “In fact, he is becoming dependent on the regional authorities. Putin is asking for something, and the government will not be able to implement it the way Putin intended.”
Low official number
This has left Russia on the defensive in many fronts, including about official figures indicating an unusually low mortality rate. Authorities vehemently denied accusations that the statistics were manipulated, claiming that Russia’s low rate was a sign that the government was doing a good job. But it could also be a way of counting Russian conservatives.
Infected patients who died in hospitals underwent autopsies. If there are no signs of lung infection, alternative causes are listed as the cause of death.
But statistics in the region on cases and deaths are unreliable, Stanovaya said.
“For example, in the Caucasus region it is just a total mess,” he added. “The numbers they give are like a fake, nothing to do with reality. In other regions, they are not very careful with the statistics and these tests.”
No cords are hidden in the Russian health system, though.
Svetlana Munirova, a surgeon of 20 years experience at Pokrovskaya hospital in St. Petersburg, was surprised to find its umbrella in April dropped from 50,336 rubles (around $ 708) to 43,996 rubles ($ 619) as a result of being deployed in covid-19 treatment.
He didn’t get his bonuses until mid-May, he said in an interview, but his basic salary was lower because an infectious disease doctor was paid less than a surgeon.
A surgeon at the same hospital told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper last month that he was usually paid the equivalent of $ 1,158 a month but received half of more in April for treating covid-19 patients.
“I don’t know why doctors and medics are so hard to pay even though authorities have repeatedly ordered it,” Munirova said. “All my reflection on this issue will hardly change anything. Perhaps, as in most cases, the money is ‘lost’ along the way.”
At government meetings, Putin grew to the test.
“Listen to me. Listen carefully. We have agreed, and clearly and unequivocally, that this money should be paid for working with patients with coronavirus infection, not within the hours or minutes they put in.” , “he said in a May 15 television news show on government health. , defense and regional officials.
Four days later, he regained consciousness. “In March, we made provisions for incentive payments,” he complained at a television conference, adding that almost all of the allocated 51 billion rubles ($ 720 million) were sent to the regions.
“To my knowledge, far from all those who are entitled to the payments they have received,” he complained.
On Monday, health authorities finally reported that all required bonuses were paid to 153,373 medical workers.
Stanovaya says regional officials interpret the bonus payment mandate tightly: Regional managers are under pressure to prove they are doing a good job fighting the virus, so it’s likely reduce reported infections.
“Either they declare many covid-19 patients, and they receive more money – but in this case, the Kremlin may interpret this as a failure in the fight against this coronavirus – or you’ll need to reduce the numbers and will receive less money, ”he said.
One problem is that doctors are paid bonuses only for the exact time they worked on patients who tested positive – but many infected patients are asymptomatic, and the tests are not reliable in up to 30 percent of cases , Andrei Konoval is co-chairman of the union’s health workers union, Echo told Moscow radio last week.
“The payment regulations are very confusing … As a result, we have an uproar that could lead to many protests in the medics,” he said.
In the poor Dagestan region of the Caucasus – a region deficient in ventilators and gear protection – the region’s health minister, Dzmaludin Gadzhiibragimov, acknowledged in an interview with local blogger Ruslan Kurbanov over 40 doctors in the republic died of covid-19.
That’s a huge shame to federal government leaders, with official statistics claiming only 27 covid-19 deaths across the republic.
He said the republic recorded 13,697 cases of covid-19 and community-acquired pneumonia – even though the official covid-19 was just 3,280.
“This is why we don’t trust statistics,” Stanovaya said.
Putin asserted on Tuesday that Russia had passed the summit of the covid-19 cases. Daily increases declined from about 18 percent a day in early April to 2.3 percent Wednesday. Some regions are starting to open.
But a spike in new cases in St. Petersburg after the holidays in early May, when many people ignored segregation and social travel rules, signaled potential dangers.
The chairman of the St. John’s health committee said Petersburg resident Andrei Sarana said Wednesday that covid-19 hospitals have jumped recently from about 200 a day to 670 a day, putting doctors and hospitals under “tremendous pressure.”
Natasha Abbakumova contributed to this report.