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Healthcare privatisation in Ukraine still on track, communists warn

UKRAINE’S Communist Party (KPU) warned at the weekend that a bizarre spat in the Health Ministry shows the officials driving a shift from free public healthcare to a US-style insurance-based model remain entrenched.

The ministry’s director of strategic planning and European integration Irinia Litovchenko and director of medical services Oksana Sukhorukova have appealed to Prime Minister Alexei Honcharuk against “political repression” by new Health Minister Zoryana Skaletskaya on the grounds of a ministerial audit looking at the performance of its departments.

The officials claimed the new minister was refusing to sign off documents and putting healthcare reform at risk.

Ms Skaletskaya replaced the US-born private health entrepreneur Ulana Suprun — nicknamed “Dr Death” — at the head of the ministry following Volodymyr Zelensky’s defeat of Petro Poroshenko in the last presidential elections.

Following mediation by officials, both Ms Litovchenko and Ms Sukhorukova have been made “state secretaries” in the ministry, a position giving them authority over its internal organisation, with the previous state secretary supposedly stepping aside on grounds of paternity leave.

Both figures were tasked with implementing Ms Suprun’s unpopular healthcare reforms, which introduced fees for specialised care — leading to “a reduction in the availability of healthcare for most Ukrainians, who live below the poverty line,” in the words of opposition MP Tatyana Bakhteeva, as well as introducing a “patient choice” model where clinics compete for funding on the basis of attracting patients.

Side effects included a mass layoff of doctors and medical professionals, with around 70,000 medical staff emigrating under the Poroshenko government.

Publishing a piece written by an anonymous source within the health ministry, the KPU warned that the two officials were “just the tip of the iceberg” and there was “no reason to count on positive changes” to health policy under the new government.

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