Does Russia need a Foundation for the Elderly?
A report by the voluntary organisation “A Happy Old Age” about the Yamm home for elderly people and people with special needs, published on the Internet, was discussed by the Social Chamber of Russia. The Chamber’s Commission for Social and Demographic Policy initiated spot checks on old people’s homes and the results were discussed on 24 November at a round table on the situation in and future of homes for the elderly and people with special needs in Russia.
Commission Chair Alexandra Ochirova herself inspected some homes in Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan oblasts. Some of her colleagues collected information about homes in Karelia, Sakha, and the Samara, Kirov and Kursk oblasts. The first one to be monitored was in Yamm. Evgeny Yuriev, Chair of the Social Council of the tsentralny federalny okrug and member of the Social Chamber, and the volunteers who took part in the visit were afraid of finding “a veritable Auschwitz” but they were surprised: on 30 October none of the patients were present. E Biryukova, a member of the visiting team, explained that the previous day 22 people had been taken to the old people’s home in Opochka and another six had been taken to hospital. The home was closed, the elderly people taken far from their homes and the staff out of work. So the results were bad. The representatives of the Social Chamber thought that the regional authorities had acted in haste and without thinking it through. The working group who went to Yamm thought that they should petition for the home to be kept open and for refurbishment of the building or for a new building, with a medical unit, followed up by regular monitoring shared between the regulatory structures and civil society.
Volunteers from the “Happy Old Age” group said they had not been aware of the closure of the home. A Ochirova, from the Commission of the Social Chamber, said the idea of monitoring was not to fire or prosecute anyone, and after analysing the findings the Commission concluded that tragedies had occurred in such homes because of the lack of minimum standards for conditions in them. For example there were no guidelines as to when people in the homes should be transferred to hospitals or hospices. Participants advised the State Duma to adopt such standards and to adopt a law on public regulation in the social sphere. The government should conduct thorough checks of conditions and the level of protection of the rights and interests of people in such homes, ensure access for ambulances and fire engines, improve the equipment in the homes and raise the pay of the staff. The attitude of the health services to the elderly was described as scandalous by one participant, member of the Presidential Council for Support for Civil Society and Human Rights E Nikolaeva. The ambulance service does not go out to help people in their 70s and 80s. Lack of funds cannot be an excuse for this. She said that during the session of the Presidential Council, President Medvedev expressed satisfaction that the care of the elderly in Russia had begun to improve without the need for his intervention. It was decided to establish a foundation for support for the elderly, like the Foundation for Support to Children in Need. Ms Nikolaeva thought that the best way to organise care for the elderly would be to transfer some state functions to NGOs. No state organisation takes care to its heart the way NGOs do, she said.