May 1, 2020 / 3:27 AM / a month ago

Kremlin questions reliability of coronavirus allegations by junior medic

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Thursday questioned the reliability of allegations by a former junior medic at Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital of lax safety standards and miserable pay.

FILE PHOTO: A medical specialist wearing protective gear transports a man on a stretcher outside a hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

Natalya Lyubimaya was brought in to work at Moscow’s Kommunarka hospital by an outsourcing company. She said in a video statement this week that she had received just 26,000 roubles ($350) a month for working as a junior medic before leaving her job.

Russia’s average monthly wage is 47,000 roubles, and Lyubimaya said her pay was at odds with a statement by President Vladimir Putin on April 8 suggesting that auxiliary personnel like her should receive 25,000 roubles on top of their salaries.

She also said medical staff had to wear used protective suits, putting their safety and that of patients at risk.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RTVI TV channel there was a lot of fake news around and it was important to fight against it.

“... There was information that a nurse at the Kommunarka hospital did not get paid her money. It then turns out that she’s not a nurse from the hospital, but a junior medical worker hired by an outsourcing firm and that the firm did not pay her the money,” Peskov said.

All the facts in such cases needed to be thoroughly checked, he added.

Lyubimaya was employed by a Russian outsourcing company called Arni. Arni did not respond to a Reuters request for comment by email and was not reachable by phone.

Denis Protsenko, Kommunarka’s chief doctor, said on Facebook said that allegations about a lack of personal protective equipment at the hospital were false.

His hospital had met all of its obligations to Arni and he was in talks with the company to try to help solve the pay issue, he said.

Lyubimaya said that when she asked about getting the extra money Putin had promised, her managers told her Putin should pay her himself. “I want us to be heard and paid all the money, which Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin promised,” she said.

In March, Putin visited the hospital and praised it for working like clockwork.

Russia has no official tally of medical workers who have died of COVID-19. But Moscow cardiologist Alexei Erlikh and his colleagues have created a website called “Memory List” which as of April 30 listed the names of 74 doctors.

Russia’s nationwide case tally now stands at 106,498 and the official overall death toll at 1,073 people.

($1 = 74.2090 roubles)

Editing by Philippa Fletcher

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