NIZHNY NOVGOROD—A gut-wrenching video has been circulating in Russia showing a dead COVID-19 patient on his hospital bed in the town of Novouralsk, apparently neglected by nurses and doctors. In the clip, another patient—the man who posted the video—is seen running around the hospital’s empty hallways screaming at the top of his lungs in an effort to flag down medical staff to tend to the deceased. “Girls, anybody?! Nurses, doctors!,” he can be heard shouting. No one responds to his pleas over the course of the roughly minute-long video.
The dead patient’s niece, Oksana Kuznetsova, a young mother from Pervouralsk, said in a blog that her uncle, Vadim, was admitted to the hospital Oct. 5, and that his family members would often check in on him through the hospital window. “My uncle was left dirty in bed. Nobody cleaned after him. He did not even have a diaper on and was unable to get up and go to the toilet,” she wrote.
Kuznetsova said that she frequently phoned the hospital during her uncle’s last days, but that her calls were also ignored. She found out that her uncle had died through another patient staying at her hospital ward, who allegedly told Kuznetsova, “He was suffocating. I went to call for doctors but there was nobody on the floor.” Vadim died on Oct. 12.
The Russian Investigative Committee looked into the case after the video went viral on social media. Eventually, local authorities made the decision to fire the hospital’s director, Victor Dolgushin. The hospital has not responded to The Daily Beast’s requests for a comment.
The viral incident comes as Russia’s health system is being crushed by a new devastating wave of COVID-19. A dire shortage of medical personnel is exacerbating the crisis, especially in single-industry provincial towns, like Kuznetsova’s Novouralsk. On Wednesday, a record 34,073 infections and over a thousand fatalities were reported.
Moscow announced a new lockdown on Thursday with non-essential non-essential businesses ordered to shut down from next week. There will also be a nationwide “non-working week” from Oct 30 until Nov 7, which may help to slow down the spread.
At a press conference, President Vladimir Putin criticized his own friends for not getting vaccinated. “I look at my close ones and friends and see a strange response to the vaccination. They promised to get vaccinated after me but they did not,” Putin said in his Wednesday address to the country, in which only 32 percent of the population is vaccinated. The president also offered up a warning to “colleagues” across the country: “Under no circumstances should you fudge with the data in an effort to make the real picture look more beautiful,” Putin said. “That is dangerous and irresponsible in today’s situation.”
Even at a time of unprecedented pressure on the free press and brutal political repressions against the opposition, the Russian leader is demanding transparency when it comes to grasping the real picture of the COVID-19 disaster in Russia. Authorities are so desperate that they’re asking retired doctors and medical students for help in treating patients. Still, an overwhelming number of infections and loss of life continues to sweep Russia with no end in sight.
Patients in hospitals across the country are complaining of poor medical service and neglect, fueling fears from other ill citizens of getting treated at hospitals—lest they risk getting infected with COVID-19 themselves.
My own hometown of Nizhny Novgorod has been in mourning over another heartbreaking COVID-19 casualty at the local hospital. Pavel Medynsky, a brilliant cardiologist and father of two, was only 48 years old when he died on Oct. 11. Before catching the virus, he was strong and healthy. Medynsky had gotten his first dose of Sputnik V last month, but while waiting for the second shot of the vaccine, he went in for surgery to treat his hernia at Nizhny Novgorod Regional Clinical Hospital. “His colleagues and doctors believe he had gotten infected with COVID-19 at the hospital,” Tatiana Sinicyna, Medynsky’s longtime friend, told The Daily Beast. “Pavel had a high temperature the day after the hospital sent him home. Somebody has to check what happened.”
On Sunday, another COVID-19 tragedy rocked St. Petersburg. A 36-year-old orthodontist, Daria Khorovskaya, fell to her death after jumping out of the window of her COVID-19 ward on the ninth floor of the Yelizavetinskaya Hospital. Shortly before the tragedy, Khorovskaya’s parents, both accomplished doctors, had died of the virus. Khorovskaya had reportedly admitted with COVID-19 just two hours after her mother died. So far, there has not been any public response by the hospital.
“One thing I don’t understand is how doctors could allow Khorovskaya to die on their watch?,” a St. Petersburg family doctor, Yelena Alekseeva, told The Daily Beast. “They knew about her tragedy but obviously left the heartbroken patient alone.”
Despite about a thousand Russians dying every day from COVID-19, the majority of citizens remain skeptical about vaccination, with some going so far as to claim that the jabs are part of some diabolical masterplan to kill off the population.
“Clearly, the world’s leaders have invented this virus to reduce the population down to the ‘golden billion,’” a 32-year-old Moscow cameraman, who requested to be identified only by his first name, Aleksey, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Every time I ask a doctor about Sputnik V, they talk me out of getting vaccinated.”