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Moscow Doctors Say Ambulance Crews Told To Reduce Hospitalizations, City Denies It

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MOSCOW -- Moscow emergency medical responders have received unofficial orders to transport fewer patients to the hospital, an ambulance station chief and a paramedic told RFE/RL.

The Moscow Health Department on January 29 issued what it called an "official denial" of the assertions, which added to concerns about the efficiency of health care in Moscow.

According to the station chief, who is a doctor, several ambulance stations received such an order in December after Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova met with the chief of Moscow's ambulance services center, Nikolai Plavunov.

All ambulance stations in Moscow have now been instructed to reduce the number of hospitalizations, said the station chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The station chief added that ambulance crews had been instructed to avoiding insisting on hospitalizing patients in an effort to limit hospitalizations to cases in which it is absolutely necessary.

In its statement, the Moscow Health Department denied what it framed as reports of a "ban" or "restrictions" on the hospitalization of patients by ambulance crews.

It asserted that a document listing "measures for decrease of patients' hospitalizations," which was provided to RFE/RL by a Moscow ambulance station, was a fake.

However, the chairman of the labor union, ambulance paramedic Dmitry Belyakov, told RFE/RL that ambulance crews were given an order to offer hospitalization to patients in a way that would lead patients to refuse it.

He spoke before the Health Department statement was released.

Moscow ambulance doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity said that if the number of hospitalizations they offer increases, they may lose hard-earned benefits.

They said a shortage of beds and staff at hospitals in the capital might have led to efforts by the authorities to reduce the number of hospitalizations.