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Tbilisi Infectious Diseases Hospital suspends inpatient care due to disrepair

21 August 2020
Infectious diseases centre in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media.

Tbilisi’s Infectious Diseases Hospital has suspended inpatient care for patients with COVID-19 and HIV due to the conditions in the building.

The hospital’s director, Tengiz Tsertsvadze, confirmed to the Public Broadcaster that this would be the case from 20 August for an undetermined period, because there was an ‘absence of the vital conditions’ in the facility. 

The state-owned Infectious Diseases Hospital and its director have been on the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia.

Tsertsvadze said the clinic had been asking for funds to renovate the hospital for years, and that the Ministry of Health had evaluated and confirmed the hospital’s situation twice this year, the latest time on 22 June. 

He said that around ₾300,000 ($97,000) was needed to cover the hospital’s immediate needs. 

‘It’s important that the mandatory ventilation and oxygen systems work properly at least. A computer tomography system that we bought a year and a half ago is spoiling in storage; it’s necessary to prepare a room for it.’

Tsertsvadze said that in February, the Ministry of Health sued the hospital for the lack of a mandatory ventilation system — which he referred to as a ‘joke of a case’.

Standoff between the hospital and ministry

According to Tsertsvadze, there are two ways the government could finance the necessary work. They could allow the hospital to spend some of the profits they make, which would need to be signed off on by the ministries of finance and economics, or the Health Ministry could allocate funds from their Rehabilitation and Equipment programme.

The Infectious Diseases Hospital is not included in the year’s budget for the Rehabilitation and Equipment programme. 

At a press briefing on 20 August, Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze said that the government was prepared to allow the hospital to spend its profits; however, Tsertsvadze has said he has not been informed of any agreement to do so.

‘We have been addressing the Ministry of Health almost daily for the last two months, and we never received an answer,’ he said.

Tikaradze said that the ministry was well aware of the state of the Infectious Diseases Hospital and said that Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia had already announced in July that the Ministry of Health had purchased a new building for the hospital worth $40 million.

She also claimed that a ‘certain group’ was working with World Bank Aid to start work on the hospital immediately. She promised the ministry would study the reason behind Tsertsvadze’s statement. 

Tikaradze insisted there was ‘no risk’ for COVID-19 and HIV patients, as any clinic that wanted to stop treatment must inform the Social Service Agency two months in advance, which the Infectious Diseases Hospital had not done.

She said that if a clinic did so without warning, it would receive a fine equivalent of 10% of the previous year’s income.

Tsertsvadze responded by calling any possible fining of the hospital ‘a blasphemy’, adding that the hospital bore no responsibility for the situation. 

Tbilisi’s Infectious Diseases Hospital is currently situated in a building owned by Aversi Pharma, a Georgian pharmaceutical company that runs its own clinics. 

Tsertsvadze has previously accused Aversi Pharma of standing in the way of the hospital performing refurbishment work. 

Aversi confirmed they had refused, stating that the Infectious Diseases Hospital had not paid rent for two years and was illegally occupying the building. 

In a letter sent in October 2019, Aversi asked the Infectious Diseases Hospital to vacate a section of the building in exchange for their rent for 2021. 

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