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Healthcare Ministry Cannot Control 40,000 Pregnant Women in the Fight Against Corruption

The healthcare minister's decision to charge women who experience complications during pregnancy for treatment was temporarily withdrawn due to the lack of clear mechanisms, said RA Deputy Minister of Healthcare Vahan Poghosyan today at a meeting with journalists and civil society activists.

The decision, according to which expectant mothers would have to pay 5,000 AMD (about $12.10 USD) per one day of treatment, has been put on hold until June 1.

Civil society organizations and activists yesterday declared their intention to protest the decision, after which (today) it was announced the decision was cancelled. NGO representatives, nevertheless, went to the ministry, seeking clarifications.

At the meeting, Poghosyan didn't provide a clear answer when asked if after the issue of mechanisms were resolved whether the fee would appear on the agenda again. The deputy healthcare minister explained that the decision aimed to eliminate the "under the table" payments, to avoid pregnant women paying medical staff additional fees. Instead, the payments are formalized and go toward the medical establishment's budget. 

"We cannot control 40,000 pregnant women," said Poghosyan. 

Journalists remarked that the ministry's function is not to control pregnant women but to eliminate corruption in medical establishments. Poghosyan, however, didn't respond to this comment. He urged those present not to worry because the payments refer only to pregnant women who experience complications, which, according to him, comprise a small percentage of all women. 

Women's Resource Center of Armenia Executive Director Lara Aharonian stressed that only after the decision was made did it become clear that the pilot program has long been in effect in the two polyclinics and pregnant women were required to pay this amount. According to Aharonian, now it's hard to find out how many women have already paid for such services.

The healthcare ministry's Chief of Staff Suren Krmoyan said that pregnant women were informed that this was a pilot program and if they didn't agree to it, they could've been treated at another medical center.

One of the journalists asked whether such a decision wouldn't impact Armenia's already low birthrate, to which Krmoyan said it will no longer, since the decision has been overturned.