3 july 2012

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits the South Kuril island of Kunashir, where he inspected a local fish processing plant and hospital, visited a church under construction and talked with local residents


Immediately upon arriving on the island, Dmitry Medvedev went to the mooring complex at Yuzhno-Kurilskaya Bay where a fish processing plant is located. The head of the Yuzhno-Kurilsk Fish Processing Plant Konstantin Korobkov told the prime minister about his plans for developing the enterprise.

The prime minister wanted to know whether there were fish here. "Yes. This is an area with an abundance of fish," the director replied, adding that they were better off than their neighbours. "The neighbours have land, and we have ours. We are on our land and we catch our fish," the prime minister stressed.

Dmitry Medvedev asked where the processing plant got its funding from. The director said they had taken out a loan with Rosselkhozbank. The prime minister asked whether the interest rates were high, to which Korobkov replied that for the first loan it was 9.4% and for the second 10.4%, but this was after the economic crisis.

The prime minister also wanted to know whether the number of employees was going up. Korobkov said that it was. "As far as I understand it, the worst is over. The outflow from Kuril has stopped," Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that this was very good.

The prime minister also inspected a port building under construction. The building is designed to house the customs and border security service, as well as a medical centre. The prime minister was told that the building work is due to be completed in August and the port should open in November. "This will be a full-scale port," said Governor of the Sakhalin Region Alexander Khoroshavin.

During the course of his visit to the island the prime minister also talked with local Kunashir residents. They pointed out that this was Dmitry Medvedev's second visit to the island. "God loves a trinity," the prime minister replied.

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In Yuzhno-Kurilsk Dmitry Medvedev visited the Central District Hospital, which the prime minister was told is the main medical centre on the South Kuril Islands.

The Yuzhno-Kurilsk hospital has 70 beds, and there are a further 20 beds at the local hospital on Shikotan Island. Governor of the Sakhalin Region Alexander Khoroshavin said that a new hospital would be built on Shikotan.

After inspecting the hospital the prime minister talked with the doctors. The head doctor of the hospital said that they wanted to get some new equipment, in particular they were planning to buy a new mammography unit.

"We understand that this is important. Ms Golodets, take a note, we need to help out here," Dmitry Medvedev said to Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.

The prime minister was told that a total of 23 doctors worked in the area, of whom 16 were natives of the South Kuril Islands, and the total staff came to 38 doctors.

"It's clear there are two problems: the remoteness and housing. The housing issue is resolvable, but the remoteness is more problematic," the prime minister said.

The head doctor also said that the average salary for doctors was 67,000-70,000 roubles and for nurses 47,000 roubles. The governor explained that the average salary for the island as a whole was 38,000 roubles.

However, a hospital employee pointed out that hospital aides received 15,000 roubles. "Our salaries were reviewed by the municipal district, and they went down by 10,000 roubles, which is quite a substantial reduction," she said.

Dmitry Medvedev ordered the governor to sort the matter out. "Take them from the municipal level so that we don't have any distortions here," the prime minister said.

However, he did not agree with the need for additional social support measures in order to attract qualified professionals.

"Maybe it's just one thing – high salaries, and of course housing, but all the rest is from the Soviet era," Dmitry Medvedev said, adding: "Everybody dreams of having somewhere to call their own. But salaries have to be high enough to entice people to come here."

At the meeting with the prime minister, employees of the Yuzhno-Kurilsk Central District Hospital also raised the issues of the transport accessibility of the island and attracting staff to the Far East.

One doctor asked "It would be good to have another ship." Dmitry Medvedev said that as well as a ship additional flights were also needed. "A decision has been taken to provide you and other places with additional aircraft," the prime minister said.

Another issue for the hospital employees was the shortage of staff. "I realise that we can't just rope people in. We'll have to try to come up with something at the inter-regional level," Medvedev said.

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After the meeting at the hospital the prime minister went to the site where a church is being erected. He was told that the building work would be completed in September. In addition to the church, a Sunday school was also being built.

"Great, next time we come the church will be standing in all its glory," the prime minister said.

The prime minister had his picture taken with the construction workers and also answered their questions. In particular one worker wanted to know the fate of the Kuril Islands, would Russia give them up. "This is our land, our native land and we will not give up one inch of it," the prime minister assured them.

Dmitry Medvedev also visited a supermarket in Yuzhno-Kurilsk.