N.Yu. Pivovarov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Chief Specialist

The Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Moscow (Russian Federation)

In September 1955, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Academician A.N. Bakulev sent a letter to the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, N.S. Khrushchev, in which he stated the need to amend the resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers “On staff standards for hospitals, maternity homes, and clinics”, dated September 17, 1947. He proposed to build in large cities specialized surgical hospitals with various specializations (abdominal emergency surgery, traumatology, cranial trauma, urology, diseases and injuries of the rectum and thoracic surgery). According to him, such measures would help to reduce the number of medical errors and improve the quality of medical care. The party leadership approved Bakulev’s idea, which was intended to see the start of health reforms designed to transform the current system of health care during “late Stalinism”. On the personal order of the secretary of the Central Committee and member of the Presidium of the Central Committee, M.A. Suslov, a note was circulated via the Administrative Department of the CPSU to the Ministry of Health of the USSR, the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and Belarusian SSR, as well as to prominent Soviet surgeons. However, attempts to enlist grass-roots support and begin a phased reform of the Soviet healthcare met with opposition from the leadership of the Ministry of Health and local party organs, primarily the Moscow city committee of the CPSU. Published documents show that the ministry proposed opening special departments at major hospitals instead of building specialized hospitals. This idea was supported by the first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee E.A. Furtseva. Her position was decisive on the issue of healthcare reform. The CPSU Central Committee proposed that the regions decide on their own which way to develop health services for the population: build specialized hospitals or open specialized departments in hospitals. Bakulev’s letter and supporting documents were found in the archive of the CPSU apparatus in the department of administrative organs of the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History.

Keywords: surgery, hospital, Central Committee, the Ministry of Health of the USSR, A.N. Bakulev, M.A. Suslov, E.A. Furtseva

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Published in Vol. 3. №4, 2015

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