Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mongolia Brief September 11, 2014 Part IV

Increase to electricity rates cancelled

By B. Mendbayar
September 11 (UB Post) The Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection Mongolia (AFCCP) and Financial Regulatory Commission have stopped the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) move to raise residential and commercial electricity fees following the discovery of industry violations and lack of AFCCP approval for the price increase.

The Energy Regulatory Commission approved a resolution to increase residential and commercial electricity fees by 5 MNT per kilowatt on July 21. The commission directed electricity suppliers to put the new tariff into effect and include it in contracts established with consumers starting on August 10.
The AFCCP reviewed the electricity tariff change and considered granting its approval in accordance with the Fair Competition Law, but the Energy Regulatory Commission increased electricity fees without acquiring final approval from the AFCCP, thus violating the Fair Competition Law. Though legal monopoly entities are obligated to send the AFCCP appeals and require approval to make changes to their products’ tariffs, six legal monopoly entities violated this obligation and increased rates.
The AFCCP notified the six companies, Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network JSC, Erdenet and Bulgan Electricity Distribution Network JSC, Baganuur and East-Southern Region Electricity Distribution Network JSC, Dornod Region Electricity System JSC, state-owned Khuvsgul Electricity, and Darkhan-Selenge Electricity Distribution Network JSC, to correct their violations and report back.
Imposed fines total 185.4 million MNT, which is 0.5 percent of the industry’s trade revenue in 2013.
The AFCCP sent the Financial Regulatory Commission an official document to annul the resolution to increase electricity rates and imposed a fine of 960,000 MNT on Chairman of Energy Regulatory Commission S.Otgonbayar and regulators of the commission D.Bassaikhan and R.Myagmar, each for approving the illegal resolution.
Residents will continue to pay former rates. Chief of the Competition Enforcement Division of the AFCCP L.Ganulzii commented, “We sent notification of the fines last Friday. Increasing the payment rate is not wrong, but the process should conform to the relevant law.”

MetaStory: Seeking new outlets for Mongolian creatives

September 11 (UB Post) By MICHELLE BOROK
MetaStory NGO was conceived in September 2013 by young, creative Mongolians looking to strengthen their community with opportunities to share artistic skills, inspiration and resources with their peers. The fledgling NGO pulled off its first training session  last month, a free five-day filmmaking workshop resulting in four short films written, directed, performed, shot and edited by teams of five.
In MetaStory’s own words: “Everyone has a story. In fact, everyone has many stories. As a country with the majority of its population 10 to 24 years of age, Mongolia is a youth-led nation. With a mere 2.8 million, we don’t have a strong manufacturing workforce, nor a comforting population number to develop our domestic market. But our youth has imagination with the potential to captivate the world through the means of creative industries. That’s what we want to support. We want to gather young, talented and aspiring creative people in Mongolia.”
The short films created in the MetaStory workshop are now part of a creative and professional challenge for the NGO’s founders. MetaStory will continue to follow through on its vision of sharing Mongolian creative endeavors and is venturing into the world of international film festival submissions, sending one of the strongest films created in its August workshop off for consideration for two European short film festivals.
The UB Post spoke with MetaStory to find out more about the NGO’s origin and mission.
How did MetaStory come to be?
We don’t want to talk much about our early days, in the hopes that someday our story will be adapted for a feature film, like “Social Network”. But different ideas about bringing Mongolia’s creative and cultural presence to the world—especially the Internet—had been incubating in our minds for some time. So, over the past year, the logo of MetaStory formed in the night skies, like the birth of a celestial body. In other words, Natso, Anand and three other people started this NGO. Then three people left due to creative differences and soon Zolnamar joined our team.
Our vision is to inspire “creative industries” to reach international audiences by becoming fluent in English and tech-savvy. But there is a commercial side to this, too. “Creative industries” is an umbrella term for film, music, publishing, games and other various activities. Thanks to new technology, reaching the international stage is not a pipe dream anymore. An international presence can help Mongolia’s economy and bring in more investment.
Our first activity was organizing a short filmmaking workshop. Funded by a U.S. Embassy grant and conducted in collaboration with the Los Angeles Film School, we selected 20 youth fluent in English and passionate about filmmaking and had U.S. writer, producer, and acting coach Lee Michael Cohn and professional Mongolian instructors teach them important aspects of filmmaking. The most fun part was letting them make their own film over the five-day period. Our participants were arranged into four teams and we have four short films they did as a learning experience. We’re also sending the best film out of the four to the Oberhausen and Hamburg international short film festivals for experience.
What are your own creative backgrounds?
Natso has been trying to write short stories for awhile now. He says he found his true calling in storytelling (hence the name MetaStory). He has blogged, written short stories, book reviews, scripts and passive aggressive e-mails (don’t we all?), but has yet to be published, with an emphasis on “yet”.
Zolnamar has been heading a tech start-up and teaching kids about programming. She is a true polyglot in programming languages. Her latest iOS app game, “Bubbleologist” was recently released on Apple’s App Store, so now is a good time to check it out.
Anand has been practicing salsa, kizomba and other forms of dance floor seduction for three years now. (Ahem, he’s taken though, ladies.) He also has an Advanced Communicator Bronze title from Toastmasters International. He’s also a big film junkie, much like all of us.
Only recently have Mongolian stories on film, presented by Mongolians, been shared with the world. Have the stories told by foreign filmmakers influenced Mongolian screenwriters and directors at all?
Although no strangers to Hollywood’s penchant for blockbusters (read: explosions and CGI), the filmmakers in Mongolia probably didn’t grow up watching John Wayne’s “Conqueror”, we are aware of the image of barbarians and steppes that the word Mongolia conjures. One of our visions is to let Mongolia’s filmmakers capitalize on that, perhaps like “Borat”. Maybe not quite like “Borat”.
What’s the current state of education in media arts in Mongolia’s universities and technical schools?
During our first short filmmaking workshop, organized August 18 to 22, we realized that instruction in media arts is very theory-oriented, and most students don’t get much practice with technology. We want to promote the best practices of schools integrating technology, as this is radically changing the field of creative industries. Also, we’re planning to organize contests and events, lots and lots of them.
Are you thinking about the convergence of traditional Mongolian storytelling and modern technology?
That’s exactly what we’re thinking about. We want to guide Mongolian artists in taking on digital platforms to channel their work and reach international audiences.
Which stories have the least representation in Mongolia?
When films and shows cover Mongolia, they are usually shadowed by the culture of our neighbors. We want to show that we’re a small bunch of nomadic people who don’t speak Chinese or treat the cold with vodka.
What are the major challenges for Mongolian creatives?
English fluency and tech-savviness have to be the biggest ones. Also, networking with and learning more from international practitioners. Finally, there has been a lot of complaints on social media recently about how the established artists in Mongolia are “hogging the stage” while exploiting the newcomers. While we’re not taking any sides, we definitely think this won’t yield any progress for the development of creative industries in Mongolia.
Are you finding a lot of local support for the NGO? 
Support is something we could definitely use here. As we’re a small group running on passion, we are in shortage of human resource and premises. So far, we are looking for partners and volunteers who are passionate about creativity and are willing to exchange experience; partners and donors who can support us with venues, namely restaurants to host our bi-monthly events and venues to host our upcoming workshops; partnership from the government and other local NGOs to form advocacy coalitions; and support from international NGOs and donors to build up our capacity. We would encourage interested parties to write us at or head on over to or to follow our developments.

M.Otgonbayar: We’ve reached a level that can compete in foreign markets

September 11 (UB Post) Organ transplantation and joint replacement surgeries have developed well in Mongolia. This is proof that Mongolian medical science is developing.
The following is an interview with the Head of the Rheumatism, Joint Studies and Joint Rehabilitation Center of the State Central Clinical Hospital (SCCH) Dr. M.Otgonbayar about his profession and joint replacement surgeries in Mongolia.
You studied orthopedics (musculoskeletal system treatment) surgery in South Korea. When did start doing knee-joint replacement surgeries in Mongolia?
I was a general surgeon until I changed my profession in 2007. At the time, many people suffering from joint diseases and injuries used to get treatment abroad. Our hospital contacted South Korean surgeons to advance and train Mongolian doctors in high level joint and bone replacement surgery and I was selected to go to South Korea.
I studied for a master’s degree in orthopedics from 2009 to 2011 in South Korea. While studying, I returned to Mongolia along with South Korean surgeons and started performing joint replacement surgeries. Mongolian surgeons and nurses were trained to operate these new surgeries and technologies at the same time. From 2010, Mongolian surgeons began performing knee-joint replacement surgeries by themselves, without foreign surgeons. I graduated in March 2011 and have been doing joint replacement surgeries since returning to Mongolia.
Currently, how many surgeons specializing in joint replacement surgery are working at the SCCH? Where do they get trained?
Surgeons study orthopedics at the National Trauma and Orthopedic Research Center. This center has been performing this type of surgery even before the SCCH. All professional surgeons of this field at our hospital have majored in South Korea. Even nurses have been trained there for a certain period.
Since joint replacement surgery is rapidly developing in Mongolia, has this impacted the cash flow that went towards surgeries abroad?
Yes, it has. Number of patients traveling abroad for this surgery type has drastically reduced in the last three years. The few that are going mostly have family members in that country. The majority of patients getting joint replacement are elderly people so it’s difficult to travel to faraway places and resolve payment issues.
In South Korea, how much does it cost to get a joint replaced?
To get a joint replaced, over 10,000 USD is necessary for the surgery and if you add treatment and other costs on top of this, it’ll total around 20,000 USD. While studying in South Korea, I used to assist Mongolian patients getting surgeries. In addition to many complexities and expenses, the elderly patients could adjust to the food, air and environment.
People who had this surgery in Mongolia receive 50 to 60 percent discounts for the surgery from the Mongolian Social Welfare Fund. Is it true that this surgery will be included to health insurance in the future?
The world standard states that 70 to 80 percent of surgery expenses should be covered with health insurance and the remaining small portion by the individual. Mongolia is aspiring for this transition. Demands for joint replacement surgery increased as social welfare started to provide a specific portion of the surgery fee. This was the perfect approach and strategy as it enabled joint replacement surgery in Mongolia to develop rapidly. Now, Mongolia has reached levels that enable us to compete with foreign countries.
Since the SCCH commissioned knee-joint replacement surgery, how many patients have you had? On average, how many operations do you have a week? How many operations did you perform since 2008?
Our team has done over 1,000 replacement surgeries. On average, we have five to six operations a week and 20 to 25 operations a month. There are many occasions when both joints have to be replaced. As we have inadequate beds and tons of workload, replacement surgeries aren’t conducted every day and are often delayed.
After surgery, difficulties of patients are reduced considerably and they mainly focus on relieving the pain. Many new technologies are being introduced for replenishing patients’ blood. Can you elaborate on this?
Since 2011, we started operating with a special surgery team. HELMET system is a very advanced technology used widely in developed countries for cancer prevention. Auto-transfusion technology, which fuses the patient’s lost blood back to the body during an operation, was introduced in Mongolia in 2012. Significant amount of blood is lost when knee-joints are getting replaced. This technology enables transfusion of patient’s blood back to their body. It’s very dangerous to transfuse somebody else’s blood and chances of encountering problems are high. IB pump, a system for patients for monitoring their pain, was introduced to the world. Another way for relieving pain is to input a tube between spinal gaps of people who got both joints replaced. Many people fear after-surgery pains so we try to reduce the pain as much as possible with globally recognized methods.
Since 2008, has there been a very worrisome or problematic operation like a unique occurrence?
According to global statistics, [chances of] after-operation problems for joint replacement are around one to three percent. In Mongolia, it’s around one to two percent. If there’s a problem after a surgery, we resolve it immediately as we keep regular checks on patients. Problems occur mostly due to early or late cancer surgery.
Before reaching a level that requires surgery, is there a way to prevent joint illnesses and stop the deseases? For example, pills or vaccination?
Joint replacement surgery is connected to old age. Nutrition and flexibility of cartilaginous tissue are reduced as people get older.  If you keep giving pressure with heavy weights, cartilaginous joint will wear away and an irreversible change will occur on the bone structure, making it impossible to fix without surgery.
Majority of Mongolians have excess fat. There are vaccinations for strengthening knee-joints and cartilaginous joint. The vaccination should be given at an early stage before the bone is worn away or it will be ineffective. Compared to Mongolians, Japanese and Koreans undergo this surgery at a very old age. This is due to many factors, including less excess body fat. Around 60 percent of Mongolians getting joints replaced are aged from 60 to 70.
What are the indication for the early stages of joint deterioration? Elders say that the pain is bearable for the first few weeks but worsens afterwards. What’s the reason for this?
You can define which stage the joint disease is at with an x-ray. It’s effective to get a vaccination at an early stage but it doesn’t mean the disease will disappear. It only prolongs the time for getting an operation. Mongolian endoscopic joint surgery must be improved. If joint injuries aren’t treated immediately, a replacement surgery will have to be done. A simple sewing through an endoscopic surgery is enough for a small cut in a cartilaginous joint.
At the moment, vaccinations are provided without regards to the disease stage. When a replacement surgery is inevitable, vaccination will not make any change. The pain will reduce only for a short period. Vaccinations can’t recover irreversible change in a cartilaginous joint.
Is it true that Russians come to Mongolia for joint replacement surgeries?
Lately, the number of Russians coming to Mongolia for surgery is accelerating. Joint replacement surgery is performed in Russia but the cost is high and this type of surgery hasn’t developed in some regions. More and more clients will come each year if we can provide good service to them. It’s possible to enhance treatment tourism through this method. Our hospital doesn’t have special tariffs for foreigners getting knee-joint replacement. They pay the same price as locals.
Where does the SCCH get its supply of artificial joints? Is the supply adequate?
The hospital signs agreements with companies with special licenses and orders equipment and artificial joints from the company. Only the surgeon in charge of an operation is able to order joints of specific size and model. The surgical team must work closely with the supplying company.  Only then, the surgery can be successful. The same company is responsible for providing special tools, equipment and single-use tools and materials used during operations for bone grafting. The SCCH mainly use German artificial joints made by advanced technologies.
Is this a client forward system?
Yes, it’s the most correct system. It’s an international practice. South Korea and America have the same system. In Russia, this process is conducted through tenders. The system becomes faulty when tenders are involved. What model and size of required joint becomes clear during the operation so pre-ordering large quantities through tenders is inefficient as it’s wasteful.
Previously you mentioned that Mongolia needs to compete internationally. What are some other prospects for this field in Mongolia?
We strive to improve surgery quality even more. Patients in Mongolia with bone tumor between ligaments have no choice but to cut off that ligament. Now, we’re trying to avoid crippling our patients and started performing surgeries for cutting off their ligament and replacing it with artificial joints and ligament.
You can get more information about our activities and operations from
Link to interview

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