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Protests widening against plans to turn Petersburg hospital into departmental clinic

January 23, 2013, 12:03 UTC+3

Responding to the scale of the political scandal, the city authorities allowed the opposition to stage a 10-thousand strong picket in defence of the hospital

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Mass protests over the plans of the presidential administrative department to turn one of the largest publicly accessible hospitals of St. Petersburg with a unique children’s onco-haematology unit, into a departmental clinic of the Supreme Court and Supreme Arbitration Court have been unexpectedly supported by the St. Petersburg authorities. Responding to the scale of the political scandal, the city authorities allowed the opposition to stage a 10-thousand strong picket in the Field of Mars in defence of the hospital, increasing 50 times the number of the picket participants authorised earlier.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Law and Order of the St. Petersburg administration allowed to increase from 200 to 10 thousand the number of the picket participants in the Field of Mars, the Kommersant daily writes. The application for the action “in order to inform citizens about the situation around the City Hospital No 31” was submitted to the city administration in the middle of last week, when the wave of protests against the reorganisation of the medical establishment into a subordinate to the presidential administrative department clinic for supreme courts was only rising. The organisers of the picket were Young Democrats – representatives of the dissolved St. Petersburg youth Yabloko party. One of the activists who filed the application – Alexei Bokov told the Kommersant daily that on Monday it became clear that there are many more citizens outraged by the plans of the authorities.

Speaker of the Federation Council upper house of parliament Valentina Matviyenko on Tuesday promised that the hospital “will not be restructured.”

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko commented on the situation with the City Clinical Hospital No 31 that is located in an elite district on the Krestovsky Island. The city head, quoted by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily called “speculative” all the talk that the city authorities intend to transform the hospital building into a clinic for judges of the Supreme and Supreme Arbitration Courts that are moving to St. Petersburg. According to Potavchenko, Hospital No 31 is considered only as one of the versions of the medical unit placement. “No actions have been taken for the transformation of the hospital. They will begin only when the final balanced decision is made without infringing anyone’s rights and interests,” said the governor.

The newspaper recalls that the head of city Health Committee, Valery Kolabutin, earlier told members of the parliament of Petersburg that a meeting of a special interdepartmental group will make a decision on the transfer of the City Clinical Hospital No 31, on the basis of which a unique children’s onco-haematology unit currently operates.

The Novaya Gazeta daily reports more than 150,000 people have signed the petition to the President of Russia with the demand to keep the Petersburg Hospital No 31 for sick children.

Since January 18, people have been daily staging pickets near the clinic and in the city centre. On January 20, people organised a gathering at Hospital No 31: about 400 people made a stand for the hospital. An authorised mass rally will be held in the Field of Mars on January 23. Now the commission will reconsider the issue of placing a clinic for the supreme courts.

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