February 15, 2019

Health care reformer Suprun reinstated as acting minister


Still faces ruling on right to hold post

KYIV – Medical care system reformer Ulana Suprun, M.D., can perform her duties as Ukraine’s acting minister of health after the judge who suspended her last week reversed his injunction on February 14. 

The decision came after four days of deliberation by Kyiv Administrative Circuit Court Judge Serhiy Karakashyan based on a Justice Ministry appeal. 

Dr. Suprun will face the same judge on February 15 on the issue of whether she has the authority to be acting health minister, and from which his original injunction emanated, based on a complaint by National Deputy Ihor Mosiychuk of the populist Radical Party. 

“Thanks to everyone for their support,” the 56-year-old Detroit-area native said in a statement on the Health Ministry’s website. “The fight for qualitative changes [in health care] continues.”

The daughter of patriotically minded Ukrainian parents had warned that Ukraine’s patients were being “held hostage” due to the legal proceedings that kept her from signing off on the delivery of $23 million worth of drugs to regional clinics. Other functions that require her signature were kept in flux, including sending 44 patients for treatment abroad and ongoing construction work at the National Children’s Specialized Hospital Okhmatdyt in Kyiv. 

The Cabinet of Ministers gave her clearance to act on such matters on February 13 based on a resolution, but forbade her from sitting in government meetings and formulating strategy. 

Now, in a rare move in Ukrainian jurisprudence, Judge Karakashyan backpedaled on his earlier decision. The court where he presides is notorious for making dubious rulings. The justice who heard Dr. Suprun’s case is not an exception. 

In late 2018 he had ruled to reinstate Roman Nasirov as head of the State Fiscal Service. Anti-corruption activists noted that Mr. Nasirov, whom the Cabinet of Ministers had suspended from duties pending a fraud case that allegedly caused $75,000 damages to the state, won back pay for “involuntary absence from work.” Activists said that the judge didn’t take into account evidence presented by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, including a letter from the British Embassy that confirmed Mr. Nasirov was a citizen of the United Kingdom in contravention of Ukrainian law, which does not allow dual citizenship.

Aside from the upcoming February 15 ruling on her “competency” as acting health minister, Dr. Suprun now faces a criminal case opened against her by the State Bureau of Investigation for allegedly pressuring the court. 

The Ukrainian Judicial and Legal Newspaper reported that after Dr. Suprun gave a news briefing outside the administrative court on February 13 as the judge was still sequestered, Kyiv’s Pechersk District Court ordered authorities to start an investigation into “court intervention.”

If found guilty, she could face a maximum sentence of up to three years, or be banned from holding a high-level government position for up to five years. 

By changing how health care is financed, among other systemic changes, Dr. Suprun has saved taxpayers millions of dollars in the two and a half years that she has led the Ministry of Health. She has rolled out electronic healthcare and a primary doctor system, promoted vaccinations for children, destroyed Soviet health myths and stepped on the toes of corrupt, vested interests. 

[For more on the Suprun case, see last week’s article: https://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/health-reform-champion-suprun-suspended-due-to-court-case-filed-by-populist-lawmaker/.]