- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 20, 2004

Medical Malpractice: Writers' Union accuses district government of stealing its hospital

“The plunder of cultural places has begun, all the moral resources of our country have been exhausted. This is another disgrace to our republic.”

With these words, Levon Ananyan, the President of the Union of Writers, condemned the sale of a polyclinic that had treated the organization's 400 members without charge for 44 years.

The medical center, which was founded by the union, was put up for auction by the Arabkir district's head office. The 151-square meter site was sold to a buyer named Sergey Melikyan for just 4.4 million drams (about $7,700). Prices for territories of half that size start at $50,000 in the same district.

“This sad phenomenon is a very natural part of today's life. Cultural properties in the city are put up for auction regardless of the nature of their activities, their importance and national significance and are rashly privatized,” says Ananyan.

He regards this case as particularly “immoral”, however, saying that “if old and sick writers must be deprived of the last resort where they get treatment, then what else can we say?”

The polyclinic of the Union of Writers was operating from a building in Kasyan Street for which it paid a nominal rent to the local municipality due to the humanitarian nature of its work. Money from a privately-run dental service on the site, which offered treatment to the general public, helped to pay for the employment of medical staff.

During a 2002 redistribution of land, it was handed over to Arabkir district center. The union presented two written proposals to the former head of Arabkir district and his successor, Levon Harutyunyan, concerning their claim to the polyclinic and requesting that they take ownership of it.

However, they always received the same answer: “We will put this question for discussion at the meeting of the district leadership and inform you of the outcome…”

Ananyan says that it became clear for him that many people had an eye on the territory of their polyclinic, which is in an attractive location. Despite written and oral promises from the head of the district, the territory was put up for auction without informing the union.

“Of course, this territory was not sold for $7,700. This sum is written down only in documents while in reality they paid ten times more for confiscating our territory,” says Ananyan.

The union's president says that he met a few days ago with Harutyunyan and asked how he could have allowed the writers' legal rights to be violated. He claims that the head of the district answered that “seven or eight high ranking officials called us and said to put the polyclinic up for auction and we had to do that”.

According to the lawyer Levon Baghdasaryan, who is representing the union, they had no right to sell the polyclinic. The Union of Writers had been using it for 40 years and, according to paragraph 18 of the law on “Privatization of State Property”, it must be offered for direct sale to its founder.

The head of the press service of Arabkir district, Lilit Melkonyan, insists that everything has been done in conformity with the law.

“Information about the auction was published in the Hayastan newspaper and the administrator of the polyclinic, the director of Magnolia Ltd, was informed about it in advance. However, the director refused to take part in the auction,” says Melkonyan.

Baghdasaryan says that Magnolia had no rights to give or withhold its consent because the Union of Writers holds the legal authority as founder of the polyclinic. The union's officials knew about the sale only a it had been concluded.

Ananyan explains: “It was only very incidentally that we learned that the building belonging to us had been sold. A few days ago, one of our writers visited the polyclinic to get treatment for an injured finger. Some man asked him to leave saying that it was not a polyclinic any more and that it didn't belong to writers because he had bought the territory at auction.”

For him, the district chief's explanation that an announcement of the auction had been made doesn't reduce the injustice.

“I'm not an estate agent to spend my days reading announcements in newspapers and to see what people are selling. Anyway, their announcement was made negligently, saying only that the territory located at Kasyan St 3 was on sale. How can people know what they mean by that?”

The union intends to approach the courts to protect its property rights, even though Ananyan believes there is more to this deal than meets the eye.

About 60 per cent of its members are elderly people who receive small pensions, he says. The polyclinic was the only place where they could receive free medical treatment, but its sign has already been replaced with billboard advertising airlines.

This is a planned anti-cultural policy, as a result of which within recent years we have lost the territories of the Armenian Cultural Fund, then the building of the Encyclopedia, “Posi Theatre” and other territories” says eminent writer Arevshat Avagyan.

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Ombudsman Appointed

Ombudsmanship proves to be women's job in South Caucasus. Larisa Alaverdyan, Armenia's first ombudsman, was appointed by President Kocharyan, Thursday, February 19. Armenia is the third country of the region to appoint a woman for this position of human rights protector.



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