“The nearest hospital is 17 km away”
36-year-old Gennady Potapov lives in the village of Sulinsky, Milyutinsky district, Rostov region. He is disabled due to a general illness. An impressionable and nervous person. Which he doesn’t hide. In early August 2022, his wife became pregnant.
Gennady says he was very happy to become a father. The joy was only hindered by the fact that they did not have a maternity hospital in the village, and there was no hospital either.
“You have to hitch a ride for 17 kilometers for inspections; we don’t have buses, but if you take a taxi, it costs 600 rubles,” he sighs.
I wrote about the state of affairs in domestic obstetrics at the end of last year, when those at the top suddenly became concerned about the increase in the number of Russians... So that 7-8 children per family, no less. Excuse me, but where to give birth?
Over the past ten years, hundreds of maternity institutions have closed in Russia, according to open sources. Modern perinatal centers have opened their doors - this is true, but there is often only one such center per region. And some of our regions are the size of a full-fledged European country.
This is what Russian women themselves write on the Internet about this trend.
“Around Ufa, in neighboring cities, maternity hospitals were closed.” “In Blagoveshchensk they closed for renovations, they did it, but they never opened it, there were only 250 people there...”
“In the city of Revda, Sverdlovsk region, a maternity hospital was also closed, although the city is not small. Half of the children’s doctors are missing.”
“In Priozersk, Leningrad region, the maternity hospital was closed during the pandemic. For additional seats. It hasn't opened again, it doesn't meet the requirements, and this is after a major renovation before the pandemic. Now they give birth in Vyborg, St. Petersburg, etc. Vyborg is 130 km from us along the highway.”
“In the Ryazan region, people travel 300 km away to give birth! Moreover, it’s already been 10 years,” says another expectant mother.
“In the Vladimir region they take people to give birth 50-100 km away. Old doctors are leaving, but young people are not coming. Optimization and low salary!!!”
And here is the Rostov region, where the Potapov family lives.
For 5 districts with a population of more than 250,000 people, there is one maternity hospital.
“When you have to travel 100-200 km to support a pregnancy, it’s not pleasing or stimulating; young girls think about it with horror,” say Rostovites.
In Russia as a whole, the number of beds for pregnant women has almost halved in recent years. For example, in just one pre-pandemic year in 72 regions of the Russian Federation, 25 maternity hospitals and 16 maternity wards ceased operations and 1,756 obstetric beds were cut.
Gennady honestly admits that he was not silent during all the months of his wife’s pregnancy. He didn’t like that one piece of paper was missing, then another wasn’t there, they didn’t issue an exchange card and didn’t say where they would give birth. He explains that sometimes he had to swear a lot.
According to Potapov, the situation in the medical institution by the end of his wife’s pregnancy had already become tense.
“We didn’t know which maternity hospital they would send us to. The nearest one, 80 km away, is in the village of Tatsinskaya, we went there, but were not accepted due to unforeseen circumstances. And where to give birth? Yes, even in straw...”
“My stomach was tight, they were afraid she would give birth”
- Is this also a city? — I asked.
“Straw is straw, like in the old days, it lay down and gave birth,” Gennady is surprised at my lack of understanding. - They are still transporting them to Kamensk-Shakhtinsk, to Shakhty or to Rostov itself - almost 300 kilometers. And how to get there with contractions? Yes, on our roads? That’s why I asked to put my wife in early, but no one wanted to listen to me, the doctors know better,” my interlocutor is indignant.
As follows from the materials of the criminal case, on April 12, 2023, at the 36th week of pregnancy of his wife Marina, Gennady Potapov, together with his mother, future grandmother, came to an appointment with the district gynecologist K., where a serious aggravation of relations occurred. Since his wife began to experience nagging pain in the lower abdomen, the man demanded immediate hospitalization; the doctor, according to him, refused to send Marina to the maternity hospital.
The investigation continued in the chief physician’s office. The injured medical personnel testified that the accused behaved aggressively. Therefore the police were called.
Potapov does not deny that the incident happened, but believes that it was carried out.
Arriving law enforcement officials tried to subdue the future father; the mother responded by trying to protect her son and therefore, according to the materials of her own criminal case, bit one of the policemen in the armpit area. “I saved Gena,” she confirmed in a conversation with a MK journalist.
“My hands were swollen, I was screaming in pain.”
According to police testimony, they were grabbed by their shoulder straps and uniforms. This caused: “significant harm... to the interests of society and the state, expressed in undermining the authority of state law enforcement agencies.”
Numerous inspections carried out following the incident at the Milyutinskaya Central District Hospital showed that there were no violations in the actions of the police officers; the doctors, according to the supervisory authorities, also complied with ethical standards. Only Gennady and his mother were to blame for everything.
To say that a man is upset is not enough, he is crushed. Because in the near future he will be torn away from his family, for whom he is the support and the only breadwinner.
The Potapovs live on a disability pension and run a subsidiary farm. Since there is practically no work in their village. And this is not some exception to the rule; this, unfortunately, is the lot of many villagers.
Yes, Potapov believes that he defended his rights. Albeit not by entirely civilized methods.
The investigation of two criminal cases - against a mother and against a son - lasted almost nine months.
On April 30, 2023, at 9:30 p.m., the defendant’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
In December 2023, Gennady Potapov’s mother was sentenced to 6 months in prison, thank God, suspended, and a fine of 9 thousand rubles. And Gennady now awaits his fate.
As we have learned, the prosecution may even demand that the new father not be imprisoned, but that compulsory medical measures be applied—sent him to a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period.
Apparently, until the impressionable Gennady understands that he must remain silent and endure, like everyone else. After all, the one who has more rights is right.
Commentary by Maria Arkhipova, human rights activist;
- The man really caused a scandal in a medical institution because of a threat to the life and health of his wife and daughter who was in the womb. And he can be understood - his wife complained of nagging abdominal pain, the child was Potapov’s first and only, he himself is disabled, preserving the pregnancy and the life of the unborn child was a priority for him. He didn’t ask for anything extra - just to send his wife to the maternity hospital in advance.
I would like to add that this is a case where you really need to look at the big picture.
The reduction of maternity hospitals and unqualified medical care obviously do not encourage the birth of offspring. And any attempts to defend their rights can end as disastrously as Gennady Potapov’s.
PS. I would like that in the Year of the Family, declared by the president, law enforcement officers would still think about who they will leave Gennady Potapov’s little daughter with if her father and sole breadwinner goes to jail or for compulsory treatment for an unspecified period. Is this really going to be the triumph of justice?