Three Russian doctors have fallen from hospital windows during the past two weeks, underlining the intense pressure that frontline healthcare workers are facing amid the global health crisis.
Two of the medical professionals died and one is in critical condition from the mysterious incidents, CNN reports. All three occurrences are being investigated by Russian law enforcement.
Alexander Shulepov, an ambulance doctor in Voronezh—a city about 320 miles south of Moscow—is currently hospitalized. Shulepov fell from a second-story window on Saturday, at Novousmanskaya hospital where he worked and was being treated after contracting COVID-19.
The doctor tested positive for the virus on April 22. That day, he and his colleague, Alexander Kosyakin, also posted a video discussing how Shulepov was made to keep working after falling ill. Prior to the video, Kosyakin had also slammed the hospital for shortages in protective equipment and was questioned by authorities for purportedly sharing fake news.
"[Shulepov] is an intensive care unit, as far as I know in a serious condition, last time I spoke to him was on the 30th of April, we checked in with each other," Kosyakin told the outlet. "He felt fine, he was getting ready to get discharged from the hospital ... and all of a sudden this happened, it's not clear why and what for, so many questions that I don't even have the answer to."
In a statement to CNN, the regional department of Russia's health ministry said that Shulepov "is a victim of an accident due to his own lack of caution" and is receiving all necessary medical care.
Shulepov’s hospital told the outlet that he wasn’t asked to work after he tested positive and was hospitalized in the infectious disease ward. Three days later, Shulepov recanted his comments, explaining that he was "overwhelmed by emotions."
Shulepov recorded a second video with Igor Potanin, head doctor of the hospital, who guaranteed that his staff had enough protective gear. "I spoke about this to the department's employees: I won't let anyone go to outpatients or inpatients if we don't have enough means of protection, I told them I'd go myself there, but I will not send anyone," Potanin said.
Two other doctors who fell from hospital windows didn’t make it. On May 1, Elena Nepomnyashchaya, the acting head doctor of a hospital in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, passed away after being kept in the ICU for a week.
Nepomnyashchaya had allegedly fallen out of the window during a meeting with regional health officials, where they were discussing converting a clinic into a coronavirus facility. Nepomnyashchaya was against the idea due to a protective equipment shortage.
On April 24, Natalya Lebedeva, head of the emergency medical service at Star City, also died after her fall.
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Alliance of Doctors union, doesn’t believe that someone is intentionally targeting doctors, but that these incidents are a result of underfunded and overwhelmed systems.
"This is really about the destruction of our health care system," said Vasilyeva told CNN. "A lot of clinics and hospitals have been closed ... And, of course, this means it is very difficult to treat in such conditions a lot of patients with coronavirus."