Perched high up in Armenia’s Geghama mountain range, almost 2,000 meters above sea-level, the town of Gavar experiences weather conditions that exact a heavy toll on those who spend their lives amidst its rugged beauty. Sadly, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are common among the town’s inhabitants.
In the past, Gavar benefitted from state-funded universal healthcare and had a large well-functioning hospital, but in the years following the end of the soviet era, the healthcare system started to decline and the hospital became seriously dilapidated.
The hospital building even went without heating during cold and extended winter periods, and running water became a distant memory. Supplies of the most basic of pharmaceutical drugs became scarce, while medical equipment began to resemble relics in a museum.
Driving along Gavar’s main street today, however, one passes a building once well-known as “the Birth Center” that now serves as the Regional Medical Center for the entire region of Gegharkunik and its populace of 240,000.
Gavar Medical Center – with its upgraded amenities, technology, equipment and highly qualified and re-trained medical staff – is one of the 14 regional centers that have been modernized throughout Armenia through a series of World Bank-financed Health Sector Modernization Projects launched in 2004 and completed in February 2016.
With World Bank support, the Government of Armenia took the approach of optimizing resources, without reducing the number of specialists, with a view to providing a full package of high quality medical services to people living outside the capital city of Yerevan.
“Buckets, everywhere countless buckets filled with water that’s what you would have seen, if you were delivering a baby years ago,” says Narine Melkonyan, an experienced local nurse. “Now mothers come to witness the drastic changes and the quality of service. I feel so proud and really empowered.”
In 2011, two hospitals in Gavar were merged into one, making it one of the most impressive regional centers in the country, successfully delivering quality healthcare services to the local population as well as to people in adjacent communities.
And, the center is increasingly winning the battle against maternal and child mortality. Doctor Azganush Hovhannisyan, an experienced obstetrician, points out that the re-trained medical staff can now follow women’s pregnancies from A to Z, supported with up-to-date equipment and high standards of hygiene.