‘Quietly Dying On The Streets’: Medical Charity Helps The Homeless In St. Petersburg

Good News Notes:

The winter months are especially harsh for the homeless in Russia’s northern city of St. Petersburg, especially for those suffering serious medical problems.

“Recuperating from many illnesses in the winter and on the streets is impossible. After release from the hospital, they end up back on the streets in conditions that aren’t conducive to recovery,” said Sergei Iyevkov, the founder and direct of Charity Hospital, which has more than 100 volunteers — including dozens of doctors — delivering health care to the homeless.

An estimated 50,000 people in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, are believed to lack a permanent home. Beyond the daily struggle to find food and shelter, those in need of medical attention face further hurdles. Many lack health insurance or even basic identification documents. Without those, only emergency wards and the city’s sole specialized hospital for infectious diseases will treat them. Discrimination and hostility on the part of some health-care workers also dissuades many of the homeless from seeking hospital treatment, experts say. And even if they are treated for an illness, many of them never fully recover.

“For example, a person gets frostbite on his leg, has it amputated, and is discharged. He may then suffer acute pain, get infections or a fever. Getting to a health center is not always possible. Plus, they need to find a place to sleep. In most cases, they end up in the emergency ward again. It’s a vicious circle,” Iyevkov told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

Charity Hospital and other NGOs — including the Bus of Mercy, which is run by the Russian Orthodox Church — are providing the much-needed help the homeless aren’t getting elsewhere. Much of the medical care Charity Hospital is dispensing is done inside vans, including the Bus of Mercy and the Night Bus, run by another NGO, Nochlezhka.

“In reality, what’s the alternative to our work? These people are quietly dying on the streets or elsewhere without any care. Our goal is to give them hope. They are recovering. Many will be healthy again,” said Irina Safonova, a surgeon who volunteers with Charity Hospital — Blagotvoritelnaya Bolnitsa in Russian.

“It’s impossible not to see what’s going on in the streets,” she said. “The problem is that few think about it. Even some of my friends and family don’t know about my work here; for many, it doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, even in the medical field, hardly anyone knows about our work either.”

Ivan Grigoryevich turned up at an emergency ward with the hope of having his frostbitten toes amputated. However, only a wound on his head was re-bandaged; his feet were ignored.

“They didn’t even look at them and just waved me away,” he recounted at a homeless shelter in St. Petersburg that is run by the Order of Malta.

Like several homeless people who spoke to Current Time, he gave only his first name and patronymic, not his last name.”

View the whole story here: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-homeless-health-care-medicine-charity-hospital/31201723.html

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