On September 3, 2004, a school in the state of Belsan in Russia experienced a group of militants seizing a school and holding children as hostages. In the ensuing blood bath, hundreds of casualties were suffered by the hostages and those seeking to help them. Recent studies indicate a complete failure on the part of the hospital to have made preparations for receiving the patients. A reporter visited today’s Belsan hospital and found at the entrance meat and macaroni pieces scattered on the ground, the walls are covered with mold and the plaster is peeling off. According to a reporter, “the toilets are easy to find, just follow the smell.” Three years after the hostage crisis, some survivors are still in the hospital undergoing treatment. When President Putin arrived at the scene and went to the hospital he tripped over cracks on the wooden floor and, in fury, sent money for repairs. Years have passed, and Belsan, like many other hospitals in Russia lacks sufficient financial support to provide modern day medical care for patients. At the time of the hostage crisis when children arrived from the school, doctors had to operate on hospital gurneys and anesthesia was given without proper equipment. It was a horror story.
Putin’s Russia has made many advances, but medical care is a national disgrace. The elderly no longer have the free medical care that was available in the Soviet Union and with inadequate pensions it is difficult having their medical needs addressed in hospitals. Perhaps, it is time for Putin to focus on creating a modern medical system in Russia to go along with his recent decisions to increase military spending. Beds before bullets might be a better slogan for those seeking care in Russian hospitals.