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3 Russian doctors with COVID-19 mysteriously fall from hospital windows

Moscow — At least three Russian doctors have fallen from hospital windows in the past two weeks, drawing attention to the enormous pressure on the country's health care system and workers amid the spread of the coronavirus. Two of the doctors died and one is in critical condition as a result of the incidents, the circumstances of which remain mysterious.

Aleksander Shulepov, 37, an emergency physician in the southwestern Voronezh region, fell from the second floor of a hospital where he worked and was himself being treated for a COVID-19 infection. He fractured his skull and broke multiple ribs in the fall but survived, according to local news reports.

Aleksander Shulepov, an emergency physician in Russia's southwest Voronezh region, appears in a video to make a statement recanting previous complaints he posted online about having to continue working after being diagnosed with COVID-19

Shulepov's fall on the night of May 1 came about a week after he complained in a video posted to social media that he and a paramedic colleague had been forced to keep working even after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

"What shall we do in such a situation?" the paramedic, Aleksander Kosyakin, asked in the video posted on Instagram. Three days later, local news website Vesti Voronezh said Shulepov had recanted the allegations, saying he and Kosyakin's remarks were driven by emotion.

Kosyakin was reportedly threatened with criminal charges for spreading "fake news" about the virus. Police are looking into possible causes of Shulepov's fall. Some reports have suggested he slipped out the window while smoking a cigarette.

Near Moscow, the head of the ambulance service in the closed-off town of Star City, home to the Russian space program's training center, Natalia Lebedeva, died on April 24 after falling from a hospital window. She was also being treated for the virus.  

Local officials reported it as a "tragic accident." Popular newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported, citing Lebedeva's colleagues, that she might have committed suicide after being accused of spreading the disease.

Another senior female doctor, Elena Nepomnyashchaya, reportedly fell from a hospital window two days later, on April 26, in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk. She died of her injuries several days later.

Nepomnyashchaya had spoken out against the regional government's plan to treat COVID-19 patients at her hospital, citing a lack of protective equipment and proper training, according to local media outlet TVK. Her fall from the fifth floor window reportedly followed a meeting with region health officials. There has been no official explanation of the incident.

Russian officials confirmed 10,102 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number reported in the country to 155,370.

The virus' spread has put Russia's health care system under intense strain in recent weeks and scores of medical professionals have become infected at work. Dozens have been reported dead by their colleagues.

Across the country, healthcare workers have voiced complaints about long shifts, insufficient equipment and low wages, as well as concerns over the health of their family members. Last week, authorities started drafting medical students into the fight against the virus, despite protests from some of them.

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