The State Duma Has Allowed Letting Relatives Into Intensive Care Units

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Photo by Gleb Shchelkunov

An amendment to the law “Concerning the fundamentals of protecting citizens’ health," giving relatives of patients access to intensive care units, was approved on July 4 by the State Duma in the first reading. According to the text of the bill, those who are considered relatives are "parents, other family members and other legal representatives." The norms for organizing these visits will be determined by the Ministry of Health.

The bill was introduced by a group of deputies from United Russia in January 2018, and it was due to be debated on June 14. However, since then, the voting on the proposed amendment was postponed several times.

The previous legislation did not prohibit relatives from having access to intensive care units, but did not require that they be allowed to do so in all cases. In fact, this permission, as stated in the explanatory note for the amendment bill, remained "a gesture of good will by the head physician." In 2015, a petition demanding access to ICUs for patients’ relatives gathered more than 350,000 signatures.

In some regions of Russia, hospitals have already been offering access to intensive care units, without waiting for the decision of the federal authorities. Accordingly, relatives are already allowed into intensive care units in the Volgograd region, at a number of medical institutions in the Kurgan region, and in Moscow.

In the capital, the issue of admission to the intensive care units is regulated by the recommendations of the Moscow Department of Health. As Dr. Denis Protsenko, the chief physician of the S.S. Yudina City Clinical Hospital and the chief anesthesiologist and ICU physician of Dezdrava, said at the June 21 meeting of the "Open ICU" project, the experience of the hospital headed by him testifies that the access of relatives to the ICU does not compromise the medical process. The most difficult task in this sense, according to Dr. Protsenko, is to change the mentality of medical personnel.

The deputies have until August 2 to propose any amendments for the second reading of the bill. 

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