Healthcare in Turkmenistan

The Ministry of Health does not warn you – how Turkmen medical care destroys fate and life

24/02/2020 has already written about the deplorable state of medical care in Turkmenistan more than once. Despite the fact that in recent years a number of new hospitals have been built in the country, due to the high cost of treatment in modern medical centers, people prefer to go to old hospitals in which there are not even basic conditions for a hospital – a normal toilet and hot water. The wards in many hospitals, especially in the provinces, are crowded; in addition to patients, there are hordes of insects: cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes and often bedbugs.

But today we are not talking about the conditions in hospitals, but about serious medical errors and leaving much to be desired as concerns the professionalism of the ambulance paramedics. Getting the right diagnosis, or even a diagnosis at all, and incorrect prescriptions for treatment often lead to real family dramas, disability and even death of people.

“My brother almost stabbed me when he heard the diagnosis.”

Last November, a 17-year-old resident of Ashgabat Lachin urgently called an ambulance due to severe abdominal pain and nausea. The team arrived, examined, palpated her abdomen and made a “diagnosis” … an ectopic pregnancy. The girl is shocked: what a pregnancy, for her and the boyfriend she never had!

“My brother flies at me almost with a knife to his throat: with whom had she been?! Well, is it really possible to hurl words like that … ”- recalls Lachin. Paramedics then barely managed to drag away an angry relative, and the girl herself was taken to the Medical and Advisory Center of Turkmenistan (the Niyazov hospital). That hospital was on duty in the city that evening, so the ambulance brought everyone there.

In the hospital, the first thing they took was blood and urine for analysis, after which they said that, judging by the results, the patient had no pregnancy. What then, appendicitis? To clarify the diagnosis, they sent for an ultrasound, but there are doubts: it is possible, but not exactly.

“It’s been about two hours since I arrived, the pains intensify, I cry, I almost lose consciousness, but the staff periodically looks at me and leaves again,” said Lachin. – My sister rushed from work, began to demand a doctor. The doctor came, felt everywhere, I already screamed from his manipulations. He says: renal colic. The sister calls her classmate, whose mother – she remembered! – works as a urologist. Her mum calls back and asks about the symptoms. “These are not kidneys! She screams into the phone. This is appendicitis! Demand, seek emergency surgery! ” And what do you think – they still called their urologist to confirm the diagnosis, who agreed: this is not renal colic. I thought, well, now they’ll take me to the operating room, and they: we’ll observe a couple more hours. ”

As a result, Lachin was still operated on, and it turned out to be appendicitis. But a little longer – and peritonitis would have happened.

It turns out that false diagnoses of “pregnancy” and “ectopic pregnancy” are not at all uncommon. Another scandal that erupted in the family was described to the editorial office by Bossan, an unmarried 24-year-old resident of Ashgabat, who, in addition to an ectopic pregnancy, was also suspected of having previously had a gynaecological operation. In fact, there was neither one nor the other, but there was still the same appendicitis. But the doctor’s words aroused serious suspicions in the family, and the author of the letter had to prove hervirginity with a certificate from a gynaecologist.

“Relations in my family will never be the same; my certificate did not convince my father and brothers, as they say, the suspicion remained, they probably think that I bought the certificate,” the woman wrote.

In Turkmen society, premarital sexual relations are considered a disgrace for a girl and her family, and even if there was no relationship at all, rumors and conversations spread quickly. Few families want their son to marrya girl whom people say is bad, even if these rumors are groundless. This happened with the interlocutor of False diagnoses by doctors, whose incompetence ruin the fate of young girls and women.

“We met for about a year, and we were close to a wedding until this appendicitis story happened,” Bossan wrote. – I told him everything as it was, he seemed to have understood me, but apparently, not without pressure from his parents, he said goodbye to me, and all plans to build a family were destroyed. Soon he was married to another girl, but he still writes to me, they say, he cannot forget. ”

Complain about your legs – get hepatitis!

Maryam, a resident of the Dashoguz velayat, has been treated for arthritis for many years. Not only that, instead of this disease, at first they tried to diagnose a gastric ulcer, but while using an IV drip her they infected with hepatitis C. However, they did not realise immediately that the the patient was infected and it was only discovered in a foreign clinic where she went to receive treatment for her underlying disease. Now the woman is trying to prove the fact that she was infected by local doctors through the prosecutor’s office. The matter is complicated by the fact that the woman is disabled by an underlying disease, she has not worked for many years, lives on a modest disability pension, and her treatment requires huge financial costs.

In another patient in the northern region, doctors diagnosed a cyst in the kidney. They said that it is necessary to operate as soon as possible. The woman was frightened and already agreed to go for surgery, but her family persuaded her to double-check the diagnosis. In Urgench, where it turned out to be the closest to go, a resident of Dashoguz denied the presence of a cyst and, conversely, found a number of other health problems that could be treated medically.

With IV drips, severe or even irreparable cases often occur. Ashgabat Garli in 2018 lost his wife, who, they say, went to the Niyazov hospital on her own feet. Before leaving for Moscow, the woman decided to strengthen her health and have a drip. She never returned home alive. Garly believes that his wife was injected with something incompatible or expired. The man wrote: “It’s not in vain that the people call this Niyazov hospital a “killer” how many people “depart” from there.”

The cases described are only a small proportion of medical errors that the general public becomes aware of. It is no coincidence that the embassies of some countries working in Turkmenistan warn their fellow citizens who, for one reason or another, are on the territory of the country, under no circumstances agree to invasive medical procedures. Nobody gives guarantees that they will not give you an infection or a virus, that they will not make you disabled or even kill you.

Residents of Turkmenistan with financial capabilities double-check the diagnosis of Turkmen doctors in India, Russia, Uzbekistan or Turkey. In some cases, when it is confirmed, people still prefer to receive the necessary treatment abroad.

It would be unfair to believe that there are no good doctors at all in Turkmenistan – real professionals. So, there are good reviews by patients about the Scientific and Clinical Center for Maternal and Child Health, where an appointment for a planned operation is months ahead. People seek doctors they know or as recommended by friends and acquaintances. In the same Niyazov hospital, patients call the name of the surgeon Chara Charyevich, who saved more than one life. Unfortunately, the name of the doctor could not be clarified. It is known that he previously practiced at the Central Military Hospital of the Ministry of Defense. But these doctors often deal with the consequence of what was done by their colleagues at the stage of diagnosis and primary treatment. At the same time, alas, it is far from always possible to restore the patient’s health.

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