Ensuring access of rural residents to medical services

December 2, 2021

Eliza Sakeeva (in the center) and her team / Photo:UNDP.

People living in rural areas usually have less access to health services than urban residents. This is most often due to a lack of available medical facilities and fewer qualified medical practitioners in these areas, which unfortunately means less preventive care and longer response times in emergencies.

For Eliza, a healthcare worker and an entrepreneur, this was not acceptable. Eliza is proactive young woman from Balykchy town, who is now running medical centers in two remote areas of Kyrgyzstan. After graduating from the Pharmaceutical department, she was engaged in business for some time but soon returned to the medical sphere with new ideas. Seeing that there is a lack of medical services in her area, she decides to open medical centers in Balykchy town, which is in Issyk-Kul province, and in Kochkor village of Naryn province. There is 80km between these two sites. Her centers quickly began to be in demand, and she was actively looking for opportunities to expand services by purchasing additional equipment. This is how she got into the project and applied for the UNDP grant. The received funds were used to purchase the colposcope.

“The colposcope is an important device used for better diagnosis and earlier detection of diseases in obstetrics and gynecology. It cost us 200 thousand KGS, which were allocated to us under the UNDP grant,” explained Eliza.

According to Eliza, requesting this equipment for her medical center was driven by the demand as most of her patients are women and the senior population.

“The received equipment became an excellent addition to the medical equipment we already had. Currently, we provide a wide range of diagnostic services, including ultrasound of all organs. A gynecologist, urologist and nurses in the treatment room are working every weekday. On weekends, we have a pediatric orthopedist, a pediatric neurologist, a cardiologist, an ophthalmologist and a mammologist. There is an acute shortage of qualified medical assistance in the regions. In Balykchy, and Kochkor, as well as in nearby villages, there are not any medical centers at all. To somehow help the local population to get better access to medical assistance, we liaised with specialists from Bishkek who are now working in our centers on weekends. The most important achievement for us is that now rural residents can be examined by qualified specialists and receive qualified medical advice without travelling to Bishkek or other cities. Besides, a variety of tests are available in our center. Prices are several times cheaper than in other similar laboratories in the cities,” she says.

This makes life much easier for rural people, they do not need to go to the capital, and this saves time, travel expenses, and spending for accommodation during check-up in the city. Moreover, according to Eliza, due to the spread of COVID-19 and the transformation of many medical facilities into red zones, it has become even more difficult to receive services even in Bishkek. The young businesswoman also noted that currently 10 specialists of medical personnel work in her clinics.

“When I started working in the field of medical services, I start understanding how much important it is to leave no one behind regardless of where people live. Most of our patients are pregnant women who come to us for antenatal care and treatment of diseases identified during this period. Before, many women in these areas did not apply for qualified maternity care, since they had to travel to Bishkek, which is time-consuming and expensive for local women due to lack of proper public transport. Another important example I would like to mention is that for every 30 women who have undergone mammograms in our centers, there are 2-3 cases of suspected oncology identified, which we refer for further examination to Bishkek. It hurts to see, but these are mostly young women. However, I do believe that early detection of disease contributes to better outcomes and recovery. Therefore, I am confident that the availability of the medical services and better access of rural population can make a change,” says Eliza.

Participation in the project helped her to see a great perspective in this field, and she is now working on expanding her medical centers into multifunctional clinics. During the monitoring of projects in the regions, we heard many words of gratitude addressed to Eliza from residents.

Providing the grant for Eliza's medical center became possible under the UNDP project “Implementing small grants to support the initiatives of young people at risk and community members in the development of their businesses, entrepreneurship and startups to prevent and respond to the COVID-19 crisis”. The project helped to implement 18 other youth startups in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan for more than 3 million KGS ($36 thousand).