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FEATURE STORY

From Rags to Riches: New Medical Center Changes the Face of Healthcare in Armenis's Kotayk Region

January 14, 2010

For the residents of Hrazdan, New Year's Eve was marked by the high-profile opening of the city's new Medical Center, made even more special with the participation of President Serzh Sargsyan. In the framework of Armenia's Health System Modernization Project (APL1) supported by the World Bank, Hrazdan's medical system has transformed from a wasteful and ineffective cluster of uncoordinated units into what is now a modern, centralized, renovated and well-equipped medical center – the first of its kind for this region of Armenia.

The central city of the Kotayk region, Hrazdan, situated 1800 meters above sea level and known for its long and harsh winters, had a hospital similar to most regional hospitals in post-Soviet Armenia – with dilapidated infrastructure, outdated technology, and obsolete equipment. The building had not seen any renovation since 1987 when it was constructed. To make matters worse, the city's then Central Regional Hospital was broken down to 12 separate administrative units in 1997. Lack of coordination among them resulted in ineffective and poor service delivery.

No longer. Once a chilling example of a medical center, it is now one of the “riches” of the country's healthcare system. As part of the Project, the Center now houses the city's hospital, clinic, and maternity hospital – all in one spacious four-departmental compound, with the community medical college soon to move under its roof as well.


" Patients are even thrilled with the new conditions of the hospital … we have heating, hot water, refurbished and furnished wards, and new state-of-the-art equipment and technology. "

Artak Hovakimyan

surgeon

The improvements have made it much easier for doctors and nurses to do their jobs, but the changes have also been noticed by Hrazdan's residents.

Arshaluys Begyan, 75, from Hrazdan has been seeking regular medical care for years as she suffers from hypertonia. "We have a great hospital now; there is no comparison with the old building. Even the attitudes of nurses and doctors have improved."

“I have seen the old hospital. The conditions were so bad that you wouldn't even call it a hospital,” adds 17 year-old Arthur Ghazaryan a patient from the neighboring town of Sevan.

The Health System Modernization Project supports the Government's efforts to optimize and modernize the hospital system across Armenia by consolidating services, upgrading physical conditions, modernizing management structures, and improving management capacity. These measures will step up access to better quality inpatient services for Armenians outside of Yerevan.

The hospital's director, Robert Sahakyan, believes the new conditions will bring a marked improvement to the region's healthcare system — both in term of efficiency and quality. “We will also attract more patients to the Center from the neighboring region. People don't need to travel 50 km away to Yerevan for the services we are now able to provide, so that around half of the local patients aiming for the capital city will stay here,” Mr. Sahakyan explains.

Hrazdan, a beautiful mountainous resort zone, is attracting many people keen on summer-winter tourism and recreation. Hence, providing quality medical services has been a double imperative.

“Patients are even thrilled with the new conditions of the hospital … we have heating, hot water, refurbished and furnished wards, and new state-of-the-art equipment and technology,” says Artak Hovakimyan, a young surgeon who decided to leave his job in a Yerevan hospital to work here three and a half years ago.

Lousvard Gevorgyan, 52, has worked as a janitor here for 27 years. Almost every day she walks her way to work for 45 minutes from her village of Jerarat. But she minds the distance less now – as her work conditions have improved, so has her job satisfaction. “We could have only dreamed of these conditions before. I am now very motivated to work,” she offers with a public display of sincere enthusiasm, not the only one seen on people's faces inside the Medical Center.

“One of the major challenges inherited from the previous era is the number of huge, inefficient, overstaffed and dilapidated hospitals, which lack modern technology and efficient management to provide high quality hospital services to the population,” said Susanna Hayrapetyan, Senior Health Specialist, Task Team Leader. “Hrazdan, with a population of over 50 thousand, is the first in the series of regional hospitals which will be modernized under the Project. By the end of it, each of the ten regions in Armenia will have a renovated, equipped, and multi-profile hospital, providing a wide range of specialist care. The opening of the medical centers in Ijevan, Armavir, Aparan, and Goris communities are underway in the coming months.”



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