President Serzh Sarkisian deplored what he described as a “disgraceful” state of public healthcare in Armenia and demanded urgent government action to address corruption and incompetence in the sector at the weekend.
Speaking at an extraordinary meeting with senior government and law-enforcement authorities, Sarkisian said Armenians are rightly upset with “a high degree of bribery” and the frequently poor quality of medical assistance. In particular, he said, they often have to pay for government-funded services that are supposed to be free of charge.
“Specialized research shows that our population sees more manifestations of injustice in the healthcare than in all other areas [of government responsibility,] and unfortunately the extent of perceived injustice in this area is growing,” he told the officials after visiting a pharmaceutical company in Yerevan.
Sarkisian looked angrier after the head of his Oversight Service, Hovannes Hovsepian, reported financial abuses in the purchase of government-subsidized drugs which hospitals and other medical institutions must administer to patients for free. No details of the alleged abuses were made public in video of the meeting released by the presidential press office.
“This is an absolute disgrace,” said Sarkisian. “It is disgraceful that relevant bodies haven’t dealt with this. Such a state of healthcare is a disgrace.”
“You should show a yellow, if not red, card to the officials responsible for this sector,” he added. “Everyone sitting here, including myself, has his share of the blame for that.”
The president instructed the Ministry of Health and other relevant government agencies to draw up a plan of actions that would bring about “radical changes” in the sector in the next few months.
Sarkisian was similarly incensed when he chaired a meeting of his cabinet on September 15 to decry widespread bribery and nepotism in state procurements administered by various government agencies. The head of the government Center to Support Procurements, Hakob Beglarian, was dismissed in the following days.
The government also named a new interim head of a Health Ministry agency handling medical procurements. That agency was headed by Health Minister Derenik Dumanian’s son Gurgen until this month. The latter was appointed as chief of the Armenian parliament’s staff on September 15.