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May 18, 2022

5, 6, 0

In the explosion at Giulesti Maternity Hospital, five babies were killed, six are in a serious condition at other hospitals in the Capital (where they were moved urgently) and zero people have been punished. A strident, outrageous and saddening 5, 6, 0. As our paper reported, this is the gravest accident ever on record in a Romanian hospital. The records of such problems or other problems related (at least for ordinary citizens) to malpractice have become ever more comprehensive lately. The Slatina case, the CF2 hospital case, where Amelia Antoniu, the prima donna of the Operetta Theatre, and other interned women, ended up with an infection owing to the lack of adequate sterilisation, are only a few of the most widely publicised. Only two days before the fire at the Giulesti Maternity Hospital, a child, who had been checked in a hospital with a fracture, died suddenly after being given a dose of antibiotic. All these cases share some common elements: the caste spirit, the lack of interest and disorganisation adopting the guise of “anything goes.” Of course, issues related to the staff (more and more doctors and nurses are leaving to practice abroad, where they are paid better wages), to technical equipment, to drugs and instruments supply, etc., also play their part.

However, if you cut to the heart of the matter, all the aforementioned cases reflect an undeniable negligence on the part of the medical staff, be it subject to cuts or not.

The caste spirit. There are fields of activity in Romania where no one is ever to blame, although repeated errors are made. This also goes for the police, but, here, at least from time to time, some scapegoat is found. The most intangible brotherhoods are those of judges and physicians. As far as justice is concerned, the past twenty years have seen numberless cases in which the verdict was overtly wrong. From dramatic car accidents (resulting in deaths and injuries, in which the offender got away with a suspended sentence – at the worst) to cases of corruption (we’re living in a country where there’s plenty of corruption, but no corrupt) or accidental killing, etc. – the sentences dealt by judges were so obviously wrong that they became an outrage. One needs only to remember the Catalin Voicu case and his interventions in the judiciary. Nevertheless, the body which should keep an eye on the performance of judges, the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM), is always unable to find any culprit among magistrates. This is the caste spirit at work, each and every one defends anyone in the brotherhood. It, too, may need the same unspoken complicity one of these days. One never knows.

The same applies to the Romanian Physicians’ Council. The doctors are never to blame. The Ciomu case is the exception, perhaps, but many things are open to debate even here. Ah, some will say the hospital’s board was dismissed at CF2. Yes, this too is a form of “punishment”. Though not in cases resulting in casualties, in deaths and in people severely affected by malpractice.

The lack of interest. Whoever was forced to deal with hospitals in Romania knows what I mean. There are exceptions, doctors and nurses who do their job. Nonetheless, they too are “buried” in a corrupt and almost evil system. As for the rest, doctors are concerned with the “fee” they collect from the patient, with sending the patient, outside hospital hours, to the private clinic where the selfsame doctor works part-time and where he/ she earns more money than at the hospital. However, the state hospital is essential, otherwise, the patient would be hard pressed to find out that the physician treating him may be approached in a different way. As regards the nurses, whether they are many or few, their routine is the same. You are given the calming or treatment shot in due course if you pay RON 5 or 10, the sheet is changed if you pay the same fee, etc. Any emergencies? Countless times the patient may push the respective button by his bedside. No one is coming. The night-shift nurses are having a cup of coffee. The day-time ones are busy, there’s plenty to do in other wards. There are always excuses to come up with.

Anything goes. Owing to lack of funds, but also to slack, at times, hospital works are done “by the ear”. The nurse’s husband may replace the plug, for instance, there’s no need to call the electrician – who may very well be busy fixing the electrical system on the boss’s car. The same thing led, most likely, to the amateurish set-up of the air-conditioning system at the Giulesti Maternity, which caused the tragedy at the beginning of last week.

As we draw the line, we need to highlight a few elements which are not necessarily related to technical equipment, but rather to one’s way of seeing things and acting accordingly.

It is unconceivable that in a hospital, whichever that may be, and so much the less in a children’s hospital, electrical works be done “sloppily”. The interesting glitch is that the air-conditioning machines at the Giulesti Maternity were given a thorough check on July 20 by a specialised firm. Whose “experts” decreed “anything goes”. The firm in question, mind you, self-dissolved a couple of days after the fire!

It is unconceivable that the intensive care ward for newborns be left unsupervised, even for a split second. This contains prematurely-born babies or infants with congenital conditions, in whose case problems may appear in a blink. It is obvious that, if the nurse in question needed to leave the room, somebody else had to stand in for her in that space of time. Under no circumstances could the said nurse leave with the access card and stay away for half an hour or more. The nurse in question was at a birthday party, in another part of the building. Can one still speak of responsibility in this case?

It is unconceivable that the head of the maternity, Dr. Bogdan Marinescu, patronise such dealings. One may not possibly be unaware of the way in which one’s subordinates, doctors or nurses, go about in the hospital one’s running. Or, if one is indeed unaware, this means that one should be in an entirely different business. Of course, Dr. Marinescu made a name for himself because he helped Adriana Iliescu give birth at 67 (a world record at the time, in 2005). Quite a feat. Nonetheless, it seems that Dr. Marinescu was, himself, too busy making appointments at the private clinic owned by himself and his family. Be that as it may, not one of the aforementioned elements necessarily qualifies him to run a maternity. One which, it appears, is faced with great problems.

Two further questions. As if out of the blue, Minister of Health Cseke Attila realised last Wednesday that the persons who are to blame for the Giulesti Maternity incident have to be harshly punished, given that the hospital’s intensive care ward, where the fire started, had to be under constant supervision. “We’re speaking of an intensive care ward, which presupposes the duty of keeping constant watch on the patients. Whatever the number of employees in question, as long as there is some staff, the staff is under this obligation,” the minister said. An interesting, but belated, conclusion. He uttered it four days after the tragedy occurred. Or, this was the obvious conclusion from the very first seconds.

On the other hand, the selfsame minister is ready to call on the Mayor of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu, to dismiss the entire managerial board of the Giulesti Maternity. He pointed out that the hospital is under the command of the Bucharest Mayor’s Office and sent an official letter in which he called for the dismissal of the managerial team of the Giulesti Maternity. Wavering, in turn, Mr. Oprescu suspended the hospital’s management until the investigation is completed, appointing as an interim manager a doctor who is, herself, not free from controversy. In exchange, he promises that the culprits will pay “the devil and all”.

We’re waiting for prosecutors to finalise their investigation. Most likely, the nurse who left the babies’ ward is facing official charges. Her burden of guilt is beyond the obvious. However, she is not the only one who should be made accountable for her failing in the line of duty. The manager Marinescu may go on practicing undisturbed, even if he has fewer “clients” at his private clinic.

We’re waiting for a change in the 5, 6, 0 score. Only as regards the last figure! Otherwise, one can only hope the remaining babies will have the power to survive.

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