More than 1,000 protesters, including doctors and patients, marched through central Moscow on Sunday, criticizing the government’s plan to lay off thousands of doctors and close dozens of hospitals and clinics in the next few months.
Russian media reported that, as part of ongoing health care reform, more than 7,000 doctors could lose their jobs and 28 hospitals and clinics could be closed early next year. Protesters also demanded better wages and working conditions for doctors.
Russian officials said the re-organization is aimed at increasing efficiency, as well as a much-needed maneuver to modernize a decrepit Soviet-era health care system.
Tatyana, a doctor from Moscow, was among the protesters.
“Healthcare is falling apart, social care is falling apart, education is falling apart,” Tatyana said. “As a doctor I want to say that in the medical professions, salaries are being slashed. They (the authorities) take away all bonuses, but increase the amount of work.”
One cardiologist from a private Moscow clinic, who participated in the rally, said the measures were "unconsidered" and signal the end of free health care.
One woman, Natalya, who has a sick child, said, “I am here because these reforms do not give me a chance to get free treatment for my child anymore.”
Russian legislator Valery Rashkin, from the Communist Party, said the reforms were extremely worrying.
A Reuters cameraman estimated that as many as 3,000 people took part in the rare public protest, which was sanctioned by Russian authorities. Associated Press put the figure at 5,000. Moscow police told Russian news agencies that around 1,500 protesters had attended the march.
Similar protests against the reforms took place in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and other Russian cities over the weekend, Russian news agencies reported.
Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.