It is possible that some of you are aware that, starting in June 2003, “Memorial” has implemented a program of free medical assistance to elderly people of gypsy (Roma) origin in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad and Pskov regions.
Naturally, as citizens of the Russian Federation, elderly Roma receive a fixed amount of free medical assistance in clinics and hospitals in their localities. However, it is no secret that representatives of this age bracket are often in need of expensive medicaments and additional medical consultations with specialists. Also, if wheelchairs, crutches or hearing aids are needed, it is often beyond the means of any Russian pensioner, regardless of nationality, to acquire these independently. Not everybody has relatives who are able and willing to help.
What is to be done in such situations? Where can help be found?
The medical program of the MOM and the Northwestern Centre for the Social and Legal Protection of Roma deals with such problems.
It is planned that 250 people, born before the 9th of May 1945 and resident in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad and Pskov regions, will receive free medical assistance in accordance with this program. It is important to emphasize that elderly Roma will receive this assistance independent of other assistance. For example, many elderly people, who were prisoners in Nazi camps and used as forced labourers, have already received financial compensation from the “Fund of Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation”. However, they also have the right to free medical help, in accordance with their age.
The number of people who received such help increased by hundreds by April 2004. Tens of elderly people from the Krasnosel’skii and Gatchina districts had consultations with specialists of the highest class, underwent fluorographic and ultrasonic examinations, biochemical analyses, cardiograms and so on. In accordance with doctors’ recommendations they were supplied with effective medicine. Glasses were provided to those who needed them. An expensive wheelchair was acquired for a resident of the village Gorelovo, and several people were hospitalized in the Krasnosel’skii and the Gatchina hospitals. N.V. Antonov, T.M. Belyakova, T.I. Vasil’eva, and I.N. Ivanov, from Viritsi in the Gatchina district received consultations and additional examinations in NII LOR Ministry of Health, Russian Federation. In accordance with the results of the examinations and doctors’ recommendations they all received hearing aids. In order for help to reach those in need as quickly as possible, it is necessary to observe several conditions. It is not difficult to fulfill these conditions, but not fulfilling them or delays in fulfilling them can paralyze the entire process.
Firstly, it is necessary to apply for an individual tax number (INN) to receive medical assistance. These can be drawn up at a local tax inspectorate on presentation of a passport. If elderly Roma cannot apply for this number in person then employees of “Memorial” will help – they can call to the house, make photocopies of passports, help to write the application declaration etc.
Problems arise when a Roma elderly person doesn’t have a passport or has an old passport. The lack of a passport makes it impossible to render any sort of assistance. For example, Nina Alexandrovna Dmitrieva, living in the village Antilevo in the Gatchina district, has still not received her new passport, unlike her husband. Consequently, it is not possible to apply for an INN for her. As a result, while Alexander Ivanovitch has had a check-up with specialists in the Gatchina Central regional Clinical Hospital and received free medicine, Nina Alexandrovna has not had the same opportunity.
Two residents of the village Semrino, Alexandra Bordanova and Khil’ma Kharponen, have a similar background: as young girls they both lived through the war and were sent away as forced labourers – the first to Germany, the second to Finland. In accordance with the conditions laid down by the “Fund of Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation” both received financial compensation. However, “Memorial” can only provide medical assistance to Alexandra Alexandrovna. What about Khil’ma Kharponen? Have we forgotten about her? No. It is simply that her numerous grandchildren cannot find her passport!
Unfortunately, not everybody takes responsibility for their health and the process of recovery. It is not even possible to get false teeth in one day; a return visit to the dentist is required. And having started a process, it is necessary to fulfill all the doctor’s orders until he/she considers that the recovery process is finished.
Finally, there are simply outrageous situations, when medical transport turns up at an appointed time to bring a patient to the hospital, only to find that the 80-year old woman, who had yesterday tearfully pleaded to be “brought to the doctor”, has walked 10kms to visit a friend!
Or the Roma grandfather, who, having refused to be hospitalized in the Viritsi hospital and requested to be put in Gatchina hospital, announces that this week he is only going to hospital “to have a look, but maybe in the future he will stay there!”
If it turns out that you don’t want to go after all – don’t go, it’s your business!
Only don’t forget, that his requests had had a preliminary hearing, an agreement had been reached with doctors (after all, often there is not enough space in hospital wards and patients have to sleep in corridors) and transport had been hired! All this was paid for with money that could have been used to help people who really need assistance.
Every one of you is somebody’s son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson. Please remember, you can help your loved ones by telling them about this article or by contacting us.
If you have any questions you may contact Zalina Slanova on (812) 935-76-50.