By Nane Atshemian
Armenia’s leading medical association criticized on Monday the government for scrapping exemptions from military service enjoyed until now by physicians with doctoral degrees.
The government announced the decision on November 19, citing a lack of medical personnel in the Armenian Armed Forces. It expects to draft an additional 70 doctors for two-year service in military hospitals. They will swell the ranks of dozens of other medical university graduates that did not continue their studies at the post-graduate level and have to serve in the army.
The Armenian Medical Association regards the decision as unacceptable and counterproductive, saying that medics specializing in scientific research would be of little use to the military. “I think the army needs doctors with strong practical skills, rather than scientists,” its chairman, Paronak Zelveyan, told RFE/RL.
He said the authorities should instead make sure that all of an estimated 40 individuals graduating from the military department of Yerevan’s State Medical University every year perform their duty. Under Armenian law they must serve in the army for at least 20 years.
“Some of them leave the army earlier. We are wondering why,” Zelveyan said, adding that his association is launching a campaign for a repeal of the government decision.
The authorities, meanwhile, are already enforcing it. Arman Grigorian, a 34-year-old radiation therapy researcher, has received call-up papers but still does not know where he will be sent. “They have called me, telling to go to the military commissariat to undergo medical tests,” he said.
Grigorian, who is associated with four different medical institutions, fears that military service would disrupt his career. “We have long-term professional plans,
he said. “They can’t change them overnight.”
He also claimed that there are scores of other, unemployed doctors who would love to join the military.