Gene Expression

Healthcare under an insane dictator

Turkmenistan had a bizarre dictator as its ruler until 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov. Here’s a sample of his healthcare initiatives:

So, in a frankly insane healthcare reform effort, he restricted the public’s access to care by replacing up to 15,000 doctors and nurses with unqualified military conscripts. The next year, he ordered hospitals and clinics outside of the capital, Ashgabat, to close — even though the vast proportion of Turkmenistan’s population lives in rural areas. The BBC quoted him as saying, “Why do we need such hospitals? If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat.” He also implemented fees and created an “unofficial” ban on the diagnosis of certain communicable diseases, like hepatitis.


  1. #1 Eric Johnson
    July 26, 2009

    There was a pretty good article about this guy in, I think, The New Yorker a few years ago.

    The book of universal wisdom he wrote and caused to be studied in all the schools was one thing. But my favorite part was – I’m recalling this a bit roughly perhaps – the great chamber filled with statuary and hagiographic paintings depicting the great ruler. He was heard to say, in great earnest: “yes, yes – I really do think it is far too much. But, the People demand it.” Priceless.

  2. #2 Eric Johnson
    July 26, 2009
  3. #3 Hisham
    July 26, 2009

    Ah, that Turkmenbashi. What a character.

  4. #4 Joshua Zelinsky
    July 26, 2009

    I think if I ever try to become dictator my motto will be “At least I’m not Saparmurat Niyazov.”

  5. #5 Art
    July 26, 2009

    Oh noes … reading this I’m struck by the conclusion that we are going to see the right picking up Turkmenistan’s healthcare system as ab example and declaring it ‘The miracle in Turkmenistan’. Floating stories through FOX about how people love the medical system in Turkmenistan and are generally more healthy. Then hiring Saparmurat Niyazov to put forth the GOP healthcare proposal and generally straighten out the system in the US.

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