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Inspiring Social Transformation - From Soviet Decay to a National Health Service for Ukraine

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Dr Ulana Suprun, the Minister of Health of Ukraine, will deliver the 17th Annual Cambridge Stasiuk Lecture in Contemporary Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge on Friday, 1 March 2019. The lecture entitled Inspiring Social Transformation – From Soviet Decay to a National Health Service for Ukraine will take place in the Theatre of Peterhouse College, the oldest of the Cambridge colleges founded in 1284. The lecture will start at 5.30pm. It will be followed by a question and answer session and a wine reception.

Although Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, reform was characterized by legacy system support and little was done to change social mores, essentially letting a wound fester, leaving in place a mentality incongruous with the 21st century. True societal changes began to take shape only after the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014. The change underway in Ukraine’s healthcare system is a metaphor for the transformation occurring in society as a whole. A new social contract between the government and the individual is based on shared values, the protection of the rights of all Ukrainians, and adherence to the rule of law. Dr Ulana Suprun was appointed Ukraine’s Minister of Health in July 2016. Since her appointment, she has successfully led an effort to reform and modernize Ukraine’s healthcare system, culminating in passage of key reform legislation in October 2017. The reform is based on the principle of creating a single payer system with a budgetary funded national health insurance, providing universal healthcare coverage, and raising the quality of care to meet international standards. In Cambridge, Minister Suprun will speak on her work reforming Ukraine’s Healthcare System.

Dr Suprun was born in Detroit, Michigan and was awarded her MD from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in 1989. She is a Board Certified Radiologist who worked in both private and academic settings, eventually becoming the Vice Director of Medical Imaging of Manhattan in New York, NY and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pathology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, also in New York. In November 2013, Dr Suprun and her husband Marko moved to Kyiv, where during the events of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, she worked as a volunteer physician to treat injured protestors. In response to Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and initiation of war in Ukraine’s eastern regions, in her capacity as Director of Humanitarian Initiatives of the Ukrainian World Congress, she founded the NGO Patriot Defence, an organization that provides tactical medical training and distributed NATO Standard Improved First Aid kits to more than 30,000 soldiers and medical personnel. In 2015, she founded and was appointed director of the School of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine and in July 2016 she was appointed Acting Minister of Health.

One of Dr Suprun’s first acts as the Minister of Health was cancelling the Soviet era “Decree 33” which allocated state funding for healthcare based on hospital beds and infrastructure rather than patient medical care. In addition, the Ministry of Health implemented a successful national procurement program for pharmaceuticals and medical devices (adopted by parliament in 2015) through international organizations such as UNDP and Crown Agents, which cut corruption and saved the state budget $50 million dollars. These savings were then used to procure more medicines. The new healthcare reform law provides state insurance for all citizens and introduces patient-family doctor contracts. The contracts ensure patients have a primary care provider, and the state insurance pays the physician for his/her services. The contracts introduce market mechanisms allowing doctors to earn more money based on the number of patients they treat. These contracts also eliminate corruption by removing the need for patients to pay bribes for treatment. To date, more than 25 million Ukrainians have signed up for the program since its inception in April 2018. Another key element of the reform is the popular reimbursement program, known as “Accessible Medicines”. This program provides medicines to patients with chronic diseases like asthma, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases at no cost to the patient, or with a minimal co-pay. The NHSU then reimburses the pharmacy for the cost. So far more than 6000 pharmacies are participating in the program and around half a million prescriptions are filled each month.

We are honoured to welcome Minister Suprun to Cambridge and invite you to join us for her lecture at the Theatre of Peterhouse College, University of Cambridge, 5.30pm, 1 March 2019. The event is free and open to the public, but online registration is required.

Initiated in 2003, the Annual Cambridge Stasiuk Lecture in Contemporary Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge explores the internal dynamics and international implications of events in today’s Ukraine and features the foremost experts in the fields of Ukrainian politics, history, and society. It is organised by Cambridge Ukrainian Studies, an academic centre at the University of Cambridge.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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