NGOs not ready to take on care for the elderly

NGOs are not yet ready to provide care services to the elderly, according to experts


26.11.2014, Moscow

Moscow authorities are considering a proposal to convert hospitals that have been closed for poor performance and convert them into social services care homes for the elderly. One idea is to outsource these care services. NGO experts working in this field believe this is a common sense initiative, but add that the sector is not yet in a position to take on this responsibility.

Moscow’s Health Department is prepared to convert closed hospital buildings into care homes and hand them over to the Department of Social Protection. A review is currently being undertaken as to how this can be implemented.

“We plan to transfer resources that are currently being used inefficiently into care for the elderly”, Alexey Khirpun, head of Moscow’s Department of Health, told Izvestia. “There are not enough social beds in the city currently being managed by the Department of Social Protection. We could transfer and release several buildings currently under our operational control to the Social Protection Department. For instance, this could wait for the building of hospital No.53 but, for now, this proposal is being closely scrutinised by all interested parties”.

Moscow authorities had earlier reported that there were currently no plans to close hospitals and cut staff.  However, according to Izvestia, one of the “roadmaps” prepared by a specialist organisation at the request of the Department of Health has stated that 28 medical institutions, including 15 hospitals, will have to close as research has shown them to be inefficient.

In an interview with Izvestia, Vladimir Petrosyan, head of Moscow’s Department of Social Protection, explained that there is a demand for an increase in the numbers of social beds adding that the city could outsource social services. “We purchase social services from both private companies and NGOs, with monthly costs ranging from between 70,000 and 115,000 roubles per person. If former hospitals could be transferred to our Department, new budget streams would be made available for their infrastructure”, Petrosyan added.

NGO members working in the field of support for the elderly believe that there is a demand for an increase in the provision of social beds.

“There’s a big shortage of nursing home places in Russia. Increases in the numbers of social institutions mean that the elderly would be able to live in a quiet and peaceful environment. However, this shouldn’t be at the expense of hospitals. Hospitals have one primary objective, namely to heal, but it’s good to know that buildings that are due for closure can at least remain within the social domain”, says Lisa Oleskina, Director of the charity Happiness in Old Age.

Gerontologists support the Department of Health’s initiative, according to Eduard Karyukhin, Chairman of Good Deed, a regional public charity for help to the elderly.

“From a gerontology perspective, this is a sound decision that takes account of pressing problems that exist within the health care system and in the often inefficient use of medical beds. The elderly population is increasing in Russia. The Department of Social Protection’s plan to purchase an additional 150 social beds in 2015 will not be enough to meet demand. Moscow needs 1,500, 15,000 beds not another 150”, says Eduard Karyukhin. However, experts believe that the NGO sector is not yet ready to take on the provision of social services that Moscow’s authorities want to outsource.

“Such NGOs could exist in the capital, but at regional level. Numbers of these bodies must increase which would help in improving the quality of services. However, everything must be strictly licensed. An organisation’s work should be regulated, but not by some obscure body. I believe it would be a sensible use of resources to hand over parts of service provisions to the business sector. We work with several private companies and consider the quality of the services they provide is higher than that from State institutions”, says Lisa Oleskina.

“There are only a few NGOs in Moscow capable of dealing with this problem, which has come about as a result of neglect in the development of the sector. This group, which is involved in helping the elderly, has an impact on issues of funding. Look at the different types of competition out there. Projects for the elderly are poorly supported as a rule”, says Eduard Karyukhin, who believes there’s a solution to this situation. Grant programmes can be organised by the Ministries of Labour and Health to allocate resources to specialist NGOs that provide social care and support for the elderly, both in the home and in hospitals.

The market for skilled workers will also increase as hospitals close. “It’s about time we employed doctors and staff to work in medical institutions, e.g. in the NGO sector. People currently working in hospitals that are to be closed and which will be redeveloped and transferred to the Social Protection Department will, as far as I know, not lose their jobs and will be retained as qualified staff. This will result in the development of the geriatric system. Most importantly, decisions on the problems associated with the provision of care for the elderly will be taken in a measured, step-by-step manner”, says Karyukhin.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina

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