Doctor Andrei Georgescu was appointed undersecretary of state and Iasi health official Vasile Cepoi has been offered the position of secretary of state. Honorary adviser Tudor Ciuhodaru claims the two are part of ‘his team’ at the ministry. UDMR voices concern.
By Daniela Baragan
Three replace one. The government replaced Ministry of Health (MS) undersecretary of state Raed Arafat with a whole team. Yesterday, Dr. Andrei Georgescu, the head of Emergency Reception Unit (UPU) of the Bucharest University Emergency Hospital, was appointed in Arafat’s place.
Having worked at the MS in the area of emergency care before, Georgescu said the Healthcare bill was good and that he was an advocate of privatisation, even in emergency medicine.
The head of Iasi Public Health Department (DSP), Vasile Cepoi, was invited to Bucharest yesterday to be offered the position of secretary of state at MS. Cepoi was seen by PM Emil Boc at the Government and by President Traian Basescu at Cotroceni for discussions about the job offer. According to Mediafax, he has not made a decision yet, saying that ‘there are still a few aspects that need to be discussed’. Both MS secretary of state positions are currently filled, one by Prof. Adrian Streinu-Cercel and the other one by doctor Cristian Irimie. The newly appointed honorary adviser to the health minister on emergency medicine matters, Tudor Ciuhodaru, also participated in the talks at Cotroceni. Ciuhodaru is an MP of UNPR, a party that supports the Power.
‘I spoke (with the head of the Government – our note) about the professionals I am going to bring to the team that will work on the new law, I presented the people I want to work at the MS in the area of legislation so that we can make this law function’, said Ciuhodaru. He said Andrei Georgescu was a good professional and Vasile Cepoi a supporter of the healthcare system with whom he had worked well in Iasi.
Health Minister Ladislau Ritli did not attend the talks between the prime-minister and the three doctors, something that annoyed UDMR who also doesn’t like the fact that Ciuhodaru, in his capacity as a honorary adviser, is now putting together his own team at the MS on his own authority. ‘He was appointed honorary adviser because he couldn’t be made a regular adviser since he is also an MP, and now he’s making a team. I don’t know who gave him that power and that prerogative’, said UDMR Senator Fekete Andras Levente. Asked if Tudor Ciuhodaru’s visit to Cotroceni on Tuesday where he took his CV before being appointed to his new office at the Ministry seemed out of place to him Fekete answered: ‘Yes, it did. It only means that some people have known for a while how things were going to turn.’
Cristian Vladescu: Arafat’s arguments against Healthcare Law are false
Not only a day after Dr. Raed Arafat’s resignation as secretary of state with the Ministry of Health (MS), several detractors have made their way into the national media. Two of them are the director of the National Public Health and Health MANAGEMENT School, Cristian Vladescu and the president of the National Health Insurance House (CNAS), Lucian Duta – both being among the initiators of the new Healthcare Law criticised by Arafat. According to Cristian Vladescu, Raed Arafat’s arguments against the new law are ‘false’, because the 112 emergency system will continue under the control of the state. ‘I believe they (Arafat’s statements – our note) are false and I repeatedly had this conversation with him there months ago. He was unable to defend any of his concerns’, Vladescu said in an interview for RFI quoted by HotNews, yesterday. Moreover, he says that even in the current 112 emergency system there are private ambulance services. ‘But I would like to make one thing very clear: nowhere in the entire chapter on the emergency system is there the word <commercial>, or the word <private>’, he says, emphasising that the legislative proposal harshly criticised by the former secretary of state only stipulates that any ambulance entering the system requires MS homologation. ‘This is the only paragraph with a difference from the law currently applicable. (…) In other words, it opens a possibility for all types of ambulances to join the system, being at the same quality standard homologated by the Ministry who does it now and who also decides on where such ambulances should be based’, explained the Healthcare Law initiator. Vladescu added that the new system would benefit patients because there will be more available ambulances that will reach them faster and the Ministry of Health ‘by releasing some of the financial burden on the state budget’.
CNAS president Lucian Duta in turn says in an interview for HotNews.ro that Raed Arafat refused to accept any changes of legislation ‘in the emergency chapter’ of the Healthcare Law, arguing that ‘nothing else needs to be added because the law is perfect’. In the context, Duta accuses Arafat of lying when he said that he was not allowed to attend the debates of the commission that prepared the draft Healthcare Law. ‘It’s very easy to say such lies in the public space. (…) Raed Arafat has been always invited by the commission working on the bill. Not only that, but he also lied when he said he had produced a written opinion on the new law. If he has, let him show it publicly, you’ll see it doesn’t exist. (Raed Arafat – our note) got up from his chair, slammed the door in our faces and said the law was perfect at that point’.
Like Cristian Vladescu, Lucian Duta also says the emergency medical system will stay within the state’s control. As for the costs presented by Raed Arafat in the press conference preceding the announcement of his resignation on Tuesday, the CNAS president says ‘they verge on derision’: ‘If I told you that an emergency procedure which you know how complicate it can be only costs a few euros, you would laugh at me. It’s one of the following: either the costs are inflated and the private providers would be making a profit from such costs, which means they are not accurately assessed by the state or they are under-appreciated and we incur a loss, which means that private operators wouldn’t even have a reason to participate in the system’.
ANPP president: Arafat, blackmailed with two prosecution cases
On the other hand, the president of the National Association for the Protection of Patients (ANPP), Vasile Barbu, is quoted by the ‘Ring’ daily as saying that Raed Arafat was blackmailed with two prosecution cases. ‘If he had behaved and let the Healthcare Law pass, those cases would have been put to rest’, Barbu says, adding that Arafat had been aware of one of those cases since the spring of 2011. ‘It concerns the procurement of 1,500 vehicles two years ago which were purchased to serve as ambulances for the permanence centres. The problem is that the regulations establishing those centres were only adopted last year. Those vehicles are 70 per cent cheaper on the free market’, said the ANPP president who accuses the former secretary of state of having favoured selected companies and who believes him to be ‘a partisan of the emergency medical system’.
SMURD Bucharest chief Bogdan Oprita however denied those allegations. The same did Dr. Tudor Ciuhodaru.
Raed Arafat: I may look for work elsewhere
Getting the raspberry in the country where he founded the Mobile Emergency Resuscitation and Vehicle Extrication Service (SMURD), Dr. Raed Arafat stated on Realitatea TV, Tuesday night, that he did not rule out the option of seeking a job abroad. ‘I and not only I may find work elsewhere’, said Arafat, quoted by realitatea.net, also having in mind some of his colleagues working in emergency medicine. The former undersecretary of state on the other and noted that he had resigned from the Ministry of Health not because of political, economic or financial pressure, But rather because ‘other cheap indirect things that had been tried before’. ‘There is a denigration campaign’ said Arafat. He got very tough on UNPR MP Tudor Ciuhodaru, accusing him of ‘having destroyed SMURD in Iasi’.
President brushes off criticism of new healthcare law
In a press statement at Cotroceni Palace last night, Traian Basescu rejected criticism of the new healthcare draft law and insisted that recent debates on the matter stemmed from misinformation of the public opinion. The president handed reporters the chapter on emergency services of the new draft law, insisting that “you will not find there any references to the privatisation of the ambulance system or the SMURD system.” However the opponents of the presidential bill, criticised the fact that private operators would be allowed to enter the public medical emergency services funded through the public health insurances, thus cutting the share of the Ambulances and SMURD, insufficiently funded already. Basescu explained that the new law was created by leading medical specialists, in collaboration with the Health Ministry, and was based on the results of a presidential commission report about the healthcare system.
“Therefore, I find it hard to understand the rage against this law instead of having a public debate. But this is triggered by misinformation; nobody is talking about privatising the emergency system or SMURD,” the president said. He added that one of the best provisions of the law allows local authorities to get involved in how the system is run, a move that follows last year’s transfer of several hospitals from the Health Ministry to local authorities. More specifically, these provisions will allow local councils to purchase ambulances and hire staff, and this would be especially beneficial in the rural area, the president said. Basescu also insisted that the SMURD system, which ex Undersecretary of State Raed Arafat is credited to have created, was not the work of only one man, but of the entire Romanian state.