Lawmakers in Ukraine have approved a long-awaited law reforming the health-care system replacing broken-down Soviet-era arrangements with a Western-style, tax-funded health-care insurance system.
The changes, adopted on October 19, have been pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union, which have chided the government for failing to move forward with vital economic and social reforms and raise health-care standards.
Patients will have more choice under the new legislation, which proponents say will help improve service and end bribery and kickbacks that are seen as rampant in the country's medical sector.
Opponents of the bill have complained that the new system will force patients to pay for medicines and could leave some of the country’s poorest citizens without coverage.
The government's task is to provide a quality medical system for citizens rather than "do nothing and tolerate the misery that we have in Ukrainian hospitals," Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman told parliament after the vote passed.
Kyiv has been seeking closer links with the West since a popular uprising ousted pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
Ambassadors from the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrial powers released a statement saying the legislation was "a sign that Ukraine is ready and committed to moving forward with its vital reforms."