In 2017, Vladimir Sotnikov moved on from Tomsk Medical University and joined the administration’s Rural Doctor program; an activity went for urging youthful medicinal experts to work in remote rustic areas.
Sotnikov was sent to his home town of Aleksandrovskoye in a remote northern corner of Tomsk Oblast, about 1,600 kilometers from the common capital.
The local, 77-bed hospital serves the entire, sparsely populated region.
“My friends and relatives were there,” Sotnikov said, recalling his joy at being able to return home. “Everything was familiar to me. I was glad to go back to my home.”
Two years later, however, Sotnikov is frustrated and disenchanted.
“In school, they taught us to heal people. But in this hospital, we just forget about being doctors,” he said. “All they want is to be able to send positive statistics to their bosses.”
He cited a recent “unofficial order” to register all heart-disease patients over the age of 60 as suffering from other illnesses.
“That’s how they reduce the mortality from heart disease, and officials can go on television and report that everything is fine here, that people live long and happy lives before dying of old age,” Sotnikov said
Sotnikov described some of the hospital’s practices as immoral, and others as outright illegal. Three times, he told RFE/RL, he was ordered to fill out false death certificates; after that, he refused. He said he was given two reprimands after challenging this and other hospital practices, after which he was fired.
The 30-year-old is challenging his dismissal in court. If he loses, he will have to repay the 1 million rubles ($15,200) he was given by the government as a Rural Doctor program incentive. What’s worse, Sotnikov said, his medical career will likely be over.
“If they fire me, I won’t be able to work as a doctor anymore — no one will hire me with such a reputation,” he told RFE/RL. “It doesn’t matter that there’s a shortage of qualified personnel in Russian medicine and hospitals are begging for young doctors.”