10 December 2009

Corruption is still a BIG problem in Ukraine

During the past week, many international diplomats in Ukraine have been voicing their opinion on the continual problem of corruption in many government organisations.

Unfortunately, corruption has got worse in the six years I have been in Ukraine.
It's a sad fact that the majority of employees in government organisations, consider that they are 'entitled' to a form of extra reward for providing a service.
Personally I NEVER pay bribes to anyone. This includes the police, who have stopped me on many occasions for speeding or minor motoring offences. I simply refuse to pay anything, which results in me being kept waiting for a long time at the side of the road until they decide how to deal with this 'foreigner who is being difficult'. They always just get frustrated and finally let me proceed. I always ask for things to be done the correct way, expecting to get a speeding ticket in the post, but it never happens.
Strange as it maybe to foreigners living here, the majority of Ukrainains just accept that corruption is a way of life. So when a policeman stops a local person driving a car, the driver fully expects to just give the policeman a cash payment and he will soon be on his way.

But its not just small cash payments we are talking about. Many international companies get hit hard by government agencies like the fire department and the whole range of others who have the powers to grant a certificate or not as the case may be. Some examples from my experience include:

1. A friend who works for a major airline based in Kyiv, told me that they were contacted by the local fire brigade. The fire brigade senior staff were demanding a large discount off the price of air tickets for themselves anywhere in the world. If the demands were not met, then maybe the airline would have many problems with its fire and health and safety certificates. Maybe the airline would be closed due to fire risks at its head office. So senior fire brigade staff now get big discounts on air tickets. (Can you imagine the Head of the London Fire Service calling a senior manager in British Airways and demanding the same?)

2. I was personally involved in helping a company obtain a bank loan from Cyprus. (Bank lending in Ukraine is still very expensive and many Ukrainian companies now borrow from abroad).
However in order for a company to obtain a foreign loan, a certificate must be obtained from the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). As usual in Ukraine, the paperwork trail is a lengthy process and agreements have to be approved in bi-lingual format by the NBU. The bank employees are only looking for 'problems', so that they can then 'help you' solve this problem in exchange for a bribe. I was informed by an employee from another local bank that most applicants for loan certificates just pay whatever is required in the brown envelope, when meeting the NBU employee in some private location. The NBU employee in our case was asking for 2 percent of the loan value. This represented Euro 5000.
I advised not to pay anything and use a lawyer to process all the documents and do things in the correct way. My choice of process delayed the granting of the certificate by 2 months and the NBU employees still tried to cause problems as they knew they were not getting a bribe.

Its a sad situation. I also think that Ukraine should forget about any possible EU membership.
Until corruption is controlled, I think Ukraine does not deserve to become a member of the EU.

09 December 2009

Private Hospitals in Ukraine

Well, I did not stay 'well' for very long. A few days after the flu virus was beaten (so I thought), I developed "Severe Chronic Bronchitis". My medical insurance company introduced me to a new private clinic in the city centre of Kyiv, called "Healthy and Happy" (In English).

So much of a contrast to a typical Ukraine polyclinic or local doctors centre. Everything in this centre was NEW. They provide total analysis. I visited various doctors in their consulting rooms within a few hours including, ENT, X-Ray, Eye test, Blood test etc.
These doctors advised me to enter hospital immediately as a result of the Chest X Ray.

Next stop - Boris Hospital. A well known local private hospital in Kyiv. (For those who have medical insurance or can afford to pay the fees). WHAT a contrast to the Ukraine state hospital previously visited. I was given a private room with Cable TV, private bathroom, modern adjustable electric bed. Introduced to a variety of doctors who conducted further analyses.
Informed I had a very bad case of PNEUMONIA. This explained the high temperatures (40), head aches, lack of sleep and loss of apetite and a feeling of no energy. During the next 11 days I had CT scans of all my body. Ultrasound on my heart (WOW it's interesting, when the sound is switched on). Although I was receiving various drugs via a drip it was not working at first and I felt I was getting worse.

Sunday 29 November 2009 willbe a day never to be forgotten. For some reason my heart decided to jump to around 180 beats a minute. Then go down the opposite scale.
I could see four doctors and four nursing staff all concerned with watching the minitor.
This was going on for far too long and I started to think......well maybe this is it, its the big goodbye.
One doctor told me they would inject a drug to try and bring my heart back to normal.
It didnt work. They dried another drug. Didnt work. Then the same doctor tells me (In English by now...as I had requested that I needed to speak in English as things were getting tricky. I did not want to say yes in Russian when maybe I should have said no)
He says, they may have to put me to sleep and try and restart my heart 'electronically'.
Luckily (I believe in God), my heart went back to normal in a few minutes and everyone started to relax a little.

Things just seemed to get better from then. Although I needed to change the bed sheets and my bed clothes on a regular basis due to high temperatures. (It always looked like someone had thrown a bucket of water over me). During the next seven days, I received a very good standard of care from both doctors and nursing staff. Problem is they never seem to communicate with each other, so everytime I see a doctor, I am repeating exactly what I have just told the previous.
Doctors would appear from no where and examine me. Nurses would take blood samples from me without a word..

So, I am now recovering. They still wanted to keep me in hospital for observations, but I had had enough. I now feel I have a new set of lungs, I 'think' about my heart more and I have not drank anything alcoholic for 8 weeks. It was a wake up call, which I will always remember.

I strongly recommend Boris Clinic/Hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine.