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Kim Jong Un’s Doctor For The Right Price, North Korea Hospitals Work For Money

“The hospitals are for privileged people, but since state support is so small, they would be difficult to run properly without extra money from ordinary patients,”

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In this Feb. 20, 2013 photo, a doctor speaks on a phone at the reception area of a newly-built breast cancer research facility at Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder). RFA

A medical facility specifically catering North Korea’s privileged elites has been forced to open its doors to common citizens in exchange for bribes, in an effort to stem financial difficulties, sources say.

Pyongyang’s Bonghwa Medical Center offers top-notch medical care, but has officially only been available to Kim Jong Un and Workers’ Party officials of the highest ranks.

Now strapped for cash, the hospital will admit anyone who greases the palms of the right people. While health care is officially free for all citizens, hospitals for elites, like Bongwha are a step above what citizens typically have access to.

“My nephew is a doctor and he has been suffering from stomach problems for more than 10 years. He was [recently] treated at Bonghwa Medical Center and has been healed completely,” said a source from North Pyongan province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service.

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In 2010, the World Health Organization controversially described North Korea’s universal health care system as “the envy of the developing world,” contradicting a report from Amnesty International that same year that said the country’s hospitals were barely functioning and unable to deal with epidemics and rampant malnutrition. Pixabay

“It cost him a lot of money to get treated [there], but now I have come to realize that money can do anything,” said the source.

The source said Bonghwa is known as “the best hospital in the Republic,” and that it is reserved for politically important people, expressing disgust that it could now be bought into.

“It is surprising that ordinary people can [get] medical treatment [there] if they bribe them. I feel bitter because there’s nothing money can’t do in this society,” said the source.

The source noted that bribery is not unique to Bonghwa — other well-regarded hospitals are doing the same.

“Well-known hospitals in Pyongyang, including Kim Man-yu Hospital, Namsan Hospital, and the Red Cross Hospital are treating a number of ordinary patients from other regions. They are getting medical treatment because they have bribed high-rank officials,” said the source.

The source said that patients of Bonghwa and the other hospitals have access to medicines that aren’t available to the general public, but these too come with a hefty price tag for the patients who have bribed their way in.

“Since they are not high-ranking officials, ordinary patients have to pay a lot for these prescription drugs. It’s like the hospitals are earning foreign cash off patients,” the source said.

Even if a patient has the means to get into the good hospitals, the level of care can still differ depending on how much was paid in bribe.

“If you give a large amount, they will even treat you better than a high-ranking official from the Central Committee [of the Workers’ Party.]”

A North Korean defector surnamed Lee who settled in South Korea confirmed the North Korean medical industry’s state of affairs.

“In the past, hospitals that have been designated only for high-ranking officials in Pyongyang have ignored their mandate and provided care to ordinary patients,” said Lee, adding, “Without taking bribes from these people, it would be difficult for hospitals to stay open, and for doctors to make an actual living.”

“That’s just how things are in the North Korean medical industry,” said Lee.

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“It cost him a lot of money to get treated [there], but now I have come to realize that money can do anything,” said the source. Pixabay
“Medical equipment and hospital supplies provided by the outside world, supposedly as humanitarian aid, all go to these elite hospitals,” said Lee.

“The hospitals are for privileged people, but since state support is so small, they would be difficult to run properly without extra money from ordinary patients,” Lee said.

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In 2010, the World Health Organization controversially described North Korea’s universal health care system as “the envy of the developing world,” contradicting a report from Amnesty International that same year that said the country’s hospitals were barely functioning and unable to deal with epidemics and rampant malnutrition.

In February, The New Humanitarian published a report describing North Korea’s “silent health crisis,” which acknowledged a recent improvement in public health within the country, but described its health system as inadequate. The Geneva-based news outlet founded by the United Nations said that a formal peace agreement with the United States and South Korea would not in and of itself improve North Korea’s health care situation. (IANS)

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WHO Report Says, 3 mn TB Cases Do Not Get Proper Care

According to report, the highest burden of TB in 2018 was in eight countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa

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According to Report, Globally, seven million people were diagnosed and treated for TB -- up from 6.4 million in 2017 -- enabling the world to meet one of the milestones towards the UN political declaration targets on TB. Pixabay

More people received life-saving treatment for tuberculosis (TB) in 2018 than ever before, largely due to improved detection and diagnosis, however, severe under-funding and lack of access to care is still jeopardising around three million of those suffering with TB, a World Health Organization (WHO) report said.

According to report, the highest burden of TB in 2018 was in eight countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa.

Released on Thursday the report said, globally, seven million people were diagnosed and treated for TB — up from 6.4 million in 2017 — enabling the world to meet one of the milestones towards the UN political declaration targets on TB.

Also, 2018 saw a reduction in the number of TB deaths: 1.5 million people died from TB in 2018, down from 1.6 million in 2017. However, the burden remains high among low-income and marginalised populations: around 10 million people developed TB in 2018.

“Today we mark the passing of the first milestone in the effort to reach people who’ve been missing out on services to prevent and treat TB,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said in a statement.

“Sustained progress on TB will require strong health systems and better access to services. That means a renewed investment in primary health care and a commitment to universal health coverage,” Tedros added.

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Report says, More people received life-saving treatment for tuberculosis (TB) in 2018 than ever before, largely due to improved detection and diagnosis, however, severe under-funding and lack of access to care is still jeopardising around three million of those suffering with TB. Pixabay

Brazil, China, the Russian Federation and Zimbabwe, which all have high TB burdens, achieved treatment coverage levels of more than 80 per cent.

New WHO guidance aims to improve treatment of multidrug resistant TB, by shifting to fully oral regimens that are safer and more effective.

“WHO is working closely with countries, partners and civil society to accelerate the TB response,” said Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.

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“Working across different sectors is key if we are to finally get the better of this terrible disease and save lives,” Kasaeva added. (IANS)