Armenia’s public healthcare sector may still be plagued by corruption despite the government’s anti-graft efforts, Health Minister Arsen Torosian admitted on Monday.
“If we talk about illegal revenues collected in medical institutions and consider that corruption, then it does exist,” he told reporters. “I personally don’t consider that corruption. I consider that illegal revenue … which a doctor seeks from a patient, a patient’s relative and so on.”
“If we go a bit further up, if we talk about corruption in the government apparatus, I can say that we are doing everything do put an end to that,” said Torosian.
As recently as in late March, one of Torosian’s deputies, Arsen Davtian, was arrested while allegedly receiving a hefty bribe from a hospital director in return for ensuring greater government funding for the latter’s medical institution. Davtian was sacked shortly afterwards.
Torosian has repeatedly pledged to eliminate widespread corruption in the healthcare system since he was appointed health minister one year ago.
He insisted on Monday he will alert law-enforcement authorities about any instance of corruption known to him. The minister argued that it was he who effectively engineered the arrest in February of two senior government officials accused of attempting to personally benefit from government-funded supplies of medical equipment to three hospitals.
The officials held senior positions in the State Oversight Service (SOS), a government agency tasked with combatting financial irregularities in the public sector. The SOS chief, Davit Sanasarian, was also indicted but not arrested last month. Sanasarian strongly denies the corruption charges.
Turning to the chronic problem informal payments collected in Armenian hospitals, Torosian said the best way to end them is to raise the salaries of doctors and other medical personnel. “No doctor enjoys getting 5,000 drams ($10) and putting it into their pockets,” he said. “They want to legally get that 5,000, 10,000 or 50,000 drams as part of their monthly salary, and our task here is to shift everything on to a legal plane.”