Latvian doctor boasts to magazine he refused to assist hospital visitor who spoke Russian - says he was proud not to help
The Latvian debate over the Russian language is often political, but now it has entered healthcare. A Riga doctor has boasted about refusing to help a hospital visitor because he was a Russian speaker.
According to Sputnik Latvia, anesthesiologist Roberts Furmanis called himself “Latvian to the bone,”telling local magazine KLUBS that he was proud of not helping, and refused to speak any language but the official state language.
While working at Riga’s Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital, a visitor asked for help finding the maternity ward, to which he replied, “Good Afternoon. We are in Latvia. We speak Latvian,” before turning around and leaving. Furmanis is vice president of the Latvian Society of Physicians.
Furmanis has worked in medicine for 18 years and is part of a specialized medical emergency team. As a social media personality, the doctor has regularly been on TV to complain about salaries and the minuscule pay rise during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The debate about Russian is a constant in Riga. According to the country’s 2011 census, 37.2 percent of Latvians use Russian as their primary language at home, but Latvian is still the only official state language. In 2018, the Russian language came to the forefront of Latvian politics, when President Raimonds Vējonis chose to ban state education institutions teaching classes in the country’s most spoken minority tongue. Following the reform, only specific language, literature, or history courses may be conducted in Russian.
Before its independence in 1991, Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. After the USSR collapsed, many Russians continued to live in the country, and nowadays make up almost half of the population of Latvia’s capital, Riga.
Last month, the leader of Latvia’s Harmony party, Jānis Urbanovičs, encouraged his country to use the “hated” Russian language during negotiations with Moscow.
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