Siberian doctors who treated Moscow protest leader Navalny issue open letter addressing critics of their efforts to save activist

The Russian doctors who treated Alexei Navalny last week have issued an open letter in response to criticism of their efforts to save his life. They are offended by some commentary, which they believe is politically motivated.

The Siberian medics say they did their best in a pressurising situation and that media coverage suggesting otherwise is “unacceptable” and part of what they term a “political diagnosis.” Aside from the staff at the Omsk emergency hospital where Navalny was taken after falling ill on a flight to Moscow, other leading Russian health figures have also signed the letter.

They include the chairman of the Russian Health Workers’ Trade Union, Sergey Bystrushkin, the rector of Omsk State Medical University, Maria Livzan, and prominent Russian doctor Murat Adyrbaev.

“People without medical education make diagnoses, talk about treatment and manipulate information. At the same time, none of them witnessed his condition,” the doctors wrote. “Instead we see a phenomenon known as “political diagnosis” which has nothing to do with medicine,” they added.

“Lately it has become almost fashionable to criticize the state of (Russian) health care. We are aware that sometimes negative comments are appropriate and constructive,” they continued. “[But] some people are more interested in the bathroom in the admission department, which is currently being renovated, rather than an objective assessment of the facts about the patient’s well-being. And they were obtained thanks to the modern equipment that this medical center is equipped with.”

The staff are clearly upset at the tone of coverage, especially in foreign media. “It got to the point that the Omsk doctors were compared with the heroes of Moliere’s comedies, for whom leeches and bloodletting were the main methods of treatment,” the letter alleges. “This is a vulgar insult to doctors who saved a patient’s life over almost two days in a very difficult psychological situation.”

“Within 16 minutes of receiving the signal from the plane, the ambulance arrived at the airport. 17 minutes after the patient was carried out on a stretcher, he was taken to the medical center of the emergency hospital in Omsk. For 44 hours, doctors fought for his life. These are facts that cannot be denied,” the letter further explained.

On Thursday of last week, a plane carrying Navalny made an emergency landing in the Siberian city after he suddenly felt ill on a flight bound for Moscow. The protest leader was rushed to hospital, placed in an induced coma, and connected to a ventilator. On Saturday morning, he was transferred to Germany for treatment.

German doctors said on Monday that Navalny was poisoned, with tests showing a cholinesterase inhibitor in his system. The Omsk region’s top toxicologist Alexander Sabayev later said, however, that the Russian doctors found no cholinesterase inhibitors in his blood during their tests.

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