Sunday, 25 March

Hrazdan’s “Modernized” Medical Center: People Still Flock to Yerevan for Treatment

Nine years have passed since the Armenian government heralded what it described as “the first modern provincial medical center” in the country.

Officials were talking about the Hrazdan Medical Center, claiming that area residents would no longer make the trek to Yerevan, the capital, for medical treatment.

Residents I talked to tell a different story today. They complain of a lack of hospital staff and services, pointing out that there’s only one ambulance making emergency calls.

Simply stated, people continue going to Yerevan for medical treatment.

It was the World Bank that financed the modernization of Hrazdan Medical Center, comprised of a hospital, polyclinic and maternity ward. All four buildings were renovated and outfitted with $800,000 worth of equipment and furnishings.

Lila Karapetyan, who runs Hrazdan Medical Center LLC, agrees with residents, saying that the staff is overworked, and the medical equipment is old and in need of constant repair.

“The X-ray machine is always acting up and the ultrasound equipment needs constant repair. We want to gradually purchase new equipment. We’ve received state funds and there’s also the hospital’s revenues. We can purchase one or two machines a year,” Karapetyan says.

When I asked Karapetyan under what circumstances are patients transferred to Yerevan, she said trauma and accident victims are sent since the center lacks a computerized sonogram machine.  

“It’s an expensive piece of equipment. We don’t have it, and neither do the medical centers in Sevan and Charentsavan.”

The center also faces a shortage of qualified physicians. The center has a staff of 430, of which 100 are physicians. Currently, there are twelve physician vacancies – an ENT doctor, a surgeon, child cardiologist, tuberculosis and resuscitation doctors, etc.

These positions have been vacant for quite a while. Karapetyan says specialists earn a good monthly wage – 150,000 drams – and is surprised that doctors from Yerevan aren’t applying.

Karapetyan says that while the medical center has five ambulances, only one is used with a rotating emergency staff since it costs 45 million drams to employ just one emergency team.  

“It costs 40-50 million drams to employ one ambulance emergency team. We can’t afford more than one,” Karapetyan says. One of the ambulances is used to transfer patients to Yerevan.

Karapetyan says that the area covered by the ambulance is large and some people are left waiting, even though emergency calls are prioritized.

The Hrazdan Medical Center services the town of Hrazdan (population 41,000) and another 15,000 people from nearby communities and villages. These numbers increase during the summer with the arrival of thousands of vacationers, thus placing a further strain on the medical center’s already stretched resources.

Karapetyan, who was hired as the center’s acting director last November, previously worked at the Meghradzor Medical Center’s ambulatory clinic for seventeen years.

She says the most common ailments in the area are high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiomyopathy and cancerous growths.

The latter have increased of late, especially in Meghradzor, where a gold mine operates.

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

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