Tengiz Tsertsvadze, Director of the Tbilisi Hospital of Infectious Diseases, has decided to stay in his position after he considered resignation following accusations by Health Minister Zurab Azarashvili against clinics on the misappropriation of COVID-19 funds during the pandemic.
In a lengthy interview with the Georgian Pubic Broadcaster on May 9, Tsertsvadze said “unequivocal and unconditional” support from the public left him under the impression that remaining on the post could be better for “the work and the country.”
“When I thought at first that the entire country has fallen apart and stands against me, it turns out that it was only a very small minority,” he argued.
The top virologist pointed accusatory fingers at a “certain part” of the public and the media, who he claimed deliberately misinterpreted the Minister’s initial remarks on alleged misappropriation as a jab at Tsertsvadze.
The Director of the Infectious Disease Hospital remarked however that the Minister should have first confirmed instances of “violations, unreasonable expenses, misappropriation, [and] embezzlement” at certain clinics before going public with the accusations.
In Tsertsvadze’s opinion, the Minister’s statements — which did not mention name specific clinics suspected of violations — subsequently became a source of “incorrect insinuations and interpretations.”
The top virologist further said that the GEL 1 billion (USD 330 million) allocated to clinics as part of the Government’s COVID response was not misappropriated or embezzled, but rather “spent on treating 1.66 million COVID patients including 250 thousand hospitalized people.”
“This sum is not much at all, on the contrary in some of the countries much more was spent,” he added.
Ahead of Tsertsvaze’s interview with the GPB, Health Minister Zurab Azarashvili had explained on May 6 that “we have not inspected the Infectious Disease Hospital, taken separately, and we are not planning to.”
On the contrary, the Minister said that Tsertsvadze and the hospital staff are part of groups that are inspecting clinics to check how they handle the COVID infections.
Also, Minister Azarashvili noted that he and Tsertsvadze had a lengthy conversation on May 5, after the Infectious Disease Hospital Director issued a starkly–worded statement denouncing “unjust, utterly untrue and baseless accusations” of misspending.