President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, both those here in the room and those in the video link-up, today we have a very specific reason for a high tech encounter, a videoconference. We will be talking about the safety of social institutions. Unfortunately this is a painful subject for us. We’ve talked about it before and I recall that we were forced to take it up at the federal level after a series of tragic events.
On January 31, 2009 a fire in a home for elderly persons in Podyelsk in Komi Republic killed 23 people. There were similar tragedies in nursing homes in the Krasnodar Territory — 63 killed — and in the Tula Region — 32 killed. As these figures show, the scale of the tragedy is very serious, and despite all our efforts problems remain.
In February we held a meeting at which I instructed my colleagues to perform a thorough inspection of all nursing homes. Its results are very bad, very depressing: they found tens of thousands of violations related to the safety of such facilities, not to mention in a number of regions the irresponsible attitudes of those in charge to their duties, to people, children, the disabled and the elderly.
Other very unpleasant facts were uncovered and we have discussed them as well. Let me note that the investigators discovered that the home for elderly persons in Podyelsk was a ghost: it had no official status even though people lived there, everything that was done was done under no supervision whatsoever. That is why people died.
As a result of this inspection, 900 officials as well as a significant number of organisations have been found liable in a civil process. Over 60,000 violations of fire safety rules have been uncovered and rectified. In these social services and health institutions inventory has been carried out. Nursing homes, homes for the elderly and other social facilities have been provided with modern alarm systems and additional safety equipment. We have just been taking a look at some newest devices with Mr Shoigu [Minister for Emergency Situations] and they are really good. I am requesting that a more detailed report on this be submitted and I will then decide on ways to improve supply of technical equipment.
Nevertheless, we still have social service facilities and health care facilities for elderly persons, the disabled and children where the fire alarm system is either non-existent or defective, and there is no other warning system. This situation needs to be studied and the relevant conclusions drawn.
Overall the situation has improved. However, for obvious reasons a significant number of these social institutions are still in dilapidated buildings. There is an acute problem with ensuring that these facilities have the requisite medical equipment. Therefore, despite the fact that we are here to discuss the safety of medical and social institutions, I would like this meeting to review a response to this question in the report by the Minister of Healthcare.
There is another very important aspect to this. The investigation identified a number of cases in which staff, sometimes even the people running these institutions, not to mention their superiors, just were not prepared for an emergency situation and conducted themselves carelessly and irresponsibly. In effect it is these people who are directly responsible for the lives and health of defenceless people, sick people. This is also a question that we must deal with in definitive fashion.
Of course civil liability is important, essential, but I would like to know what actions, in addition to administrative sanctions, have been taken. How many of these cases have resulted in criminal charges, how many have gone to court, and how many have culminated with criminal prosecution of the people bearing responsibility for the occurrence of emergencies? I would like to note that problems with staffing must be resolved by regional as well as local authorities. It is they who must deal with these issues, they who must establish order.
These accidents occur on a daily basis. This is what the duty officer just reported: today there have been several major fires, one of them in Balakhna and others in various towns, but this is the sort of work that the Ministry for Emergency Situations (MES) routinely deals with. There are other issues that the MES does not keep track of and that are in effect the collective responsibility of regional and local authorities, as well as everyone who cares about resolving these problems.
Recently there was a story about a nursing home located in the Pskov Region in the village of Yamm. People wrote me about it and wrote the Governor too. We got to the bottom of this very quickly: the principal was fired and an investigation is now being carried out. Why am I mentioning this here? We still have a lot of sub-standard, out-of-date facilities, worn-out facilities, facilities that are unfortunately still not equipped with modern technology. So a lot depends on our commitment to deal with this, on the people around us, on the potential for using volunteers, on whether those who want to change the situation are willing to blow the whistle, and even more importantly how the governors and heads of municipal bodies respond to such signals, as opposed to simply dismissing them as a pain in the neck. That is very, very important.
I believe that we need full cooperation between government departments, local self-government and volunteer organisations. They are at the forefront of events, and often they are able to provide primary information about poor conditions. I am not even talking about fire safety, which is a separate technical programme. I'm talking about the fundamental situation: generally speaking, what kind of social institution is it, does it have an official status, what sort of work does its staff do. We have to work at establishing this type of collaboration.
I think that this is enough to get the conversation started. Colleagues, obviously the question that we are discussing with you today is a moral issue as well as a legal and administrative one. And the success with which we deal with it will have effect over the moral makeup, the moral attitudes within our entire society.
Now I would like to give the floor to our colleagues who were engaged in checking and dealing with the consequences associated with identifying social service institutions that were deemed to be unusable. First, the Presidential Control Directorate. Please go ahead.
Colleagues, let's sum things up.
This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed this subject. On the one hand, the figures we’ve seen suggest that things are moving in the right direction but, on the other hand, they still look very grim. We know what all this talk about a 72 percent decrease, a 50 percent decrease actually means. First, the numbers are always relative and, secondly, if something has been reduced by 50 percent that means that the other 50 percent is still a mess. For this reason resolving this problem is the personal responsibility of governors and heads of municipalities.
There’s the question of allocation of budget funds. Even though the crisis has meant reduced expenditures and budget cuts, I am absolutely sure that the money for this can be found. Reduce spending on luxurious government facilities, on some major infrastructure projects, on other schemes the purpose of which is not always clear, cut back on purchases of VIP vehicles – generally speaking optimise spending and provide funds for the maintenance of the social institutions in major need. It's all in your hands. Once again I want to bring this to the attention of governors and demand that all the orders related to this question be carried out.
The bottom line is clear: technological innovations must be implemented; both federal and regional regulations must be reinstated; specific problems that were mentioned here by ministers and the Prosecutor General must be dealt with as soon as possible; both administrative and criminal processes must be carried through to the end.
I will keep this issue under my personal control.