Statement on the threats against Russian health workers fighting corona

26 May 2020

Stop threatening Russian health workers!

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IFHHRO | Medical Human Rights Network is deeply concerned about reports of threats to the work and position of physicians (and other health workers) in Russia. The independent Alliance of Doctors reports severe limitations and threats to their work, especially in cases where doctors expose alarming healthcare conditions, criticize COVID-19 pandemic policies of the government and are faced with ‘criminal charges’ and/or ‘criminal investigations’ following their actions and criticism.

An example is Dr. Tatyana Revva, anaesthesiologist in a hospital in Kalach-on-the-Don. She circulated a video message in which she complained about shortages of personal protection equipment and respiratory equipment. As a result, she is now facing threats of dismissal and criminal charges of ‘spreading disinformation’. In April, ophthalmologist Anastasia Vasilyeva (president of the Alliance of Doctors) was violently arrested when she intended to deliver face masks in a hospital. She was released later.

The Russian daily Meduza spoke with: ‘…doctors, among them infectious disease specialists, as well as other medical personnel such as nurses and technicians [about] severe obstacles already facing the Russian healthcare system but [they] requested anonymity out of concerns that they might be fired.’

IFHHRO is deeply concerned about reports of doctors who ‘fell out of a window’: Dr. Yelena Nepomnyashchaya died after she had to abandon her criticism on the way in which COVID-19 patients were treated in a Veteran’s Hospital. Emergency doctor Aleksander Shulepov (Voronezh Region) circulated a video on the internet showing a lack of personal protection equipment. He fell out of a window on the second floor of a hospital in the beginning of May and has been in critical condition since. These reports illustrate the difficulties Russian doctors and other health workers face when performing their professional duties according to internationally recognized professional codes of conduct.

The conditions described above and experienced by Russian healthcare workers are a violation of internationally recognized human rights covenants and internationally recognized professional codes of conduct, including:

  • Art. 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (2000)[1], to which Russia is a party.
  • World Medical Association Resolution: international code of medical ethics[2]
  • World Medical Association statement on physicians well-being[3]
  • International Council of Nurses statement on nurses and human rights[4]
  • International Council of Nurses statement on patient safety[5]

IFHHRO | Medical Human Rights Network calls for international solidarity with the Alliance of Doctors, which is continuously advocating the safety of patients and doctors. To be able to continue their advocacy, we believe it is imperative that the staff and members of the Alliance be protected and supported by their colleagues worldwide.

We also urge the World Medical Association (WMA) and International Council of Nurses (ICN) to speak out against the threats that our Russian colleagues face and the internationally recognized rights that are violated.

Finally, IFHHRO calls on the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health to speak out against the threats to health workers in Russia and the limitations they face in performing their professional duties.