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October 22, 2021

The cancer of the Health system

Morphine is an indispensable drug in the treatment of cancer, with its name coming from Morpheus, the ancient Greek god of dreams. The strange Romanian administration recently succeeded changing the status of morphine, so it is its absence that leads to sleep. But only to the “eternal sleep.” This is the fate that threatens cancer patients in Romania, a country with 100,000 cases of cancer, which holds a painful top position in the EU with regard to the incidence and severity of this disease. But, as always when such a painful change occurs in Romania, our rulers hide behind excuses and blame everything on others. This time, they blame the only pharmaceutical multinational that was importing morphine to Romania, which decided to discontinue its operations in this country, thus cutting the only source of morphine for cancer patients, despite promises about the existence of a sufficient quantity of morphine in storeBut such an “occurrence” is yet another accusation against those who rule Romania nowadays. Why? Because it is inadmissible for a government, regardless of its political colour, to lack both a forecast capacity and alternate ways to rapidly deal with such disastrous setbacks, which also affect national defence. We should not forget that the Health sector is part of the national defence system. A state like year 2012’s Romania, with the highest child mortality and lowest demographic index in the EU, faced by an explosion of cancer, cardiovascular, kidney and lung diseases, diabetes and even AIDS, has a bleak future ahead. Despite this tragic reality, the Romanian Health sector has been struggling to survive for the last two decades, caught between life and death. And the first cause of its collapse is chronic under-financing, with its foreseeable subsidiary – the emigration of the medical personnel, which is beyond any European comparison.Against this background, there is no wonder that the international mafia of medicines – as illustrated by the case of the morphine import – is exclusively acting to its best interest. The foreign pharmaceutical companies that operate in Romania register fabulous profits, which they export to their home countries, without any intention of investing part of this money in Romania. But, in these cases too, it is still Romanian authorities that bear the entire blame, because they yielded – at a price, naturally – to these pressures and undermined our local pharmaceutical industry. This was also possible with support from our local corrupts, which included very expensive imported medicines in the treatments of Romanian patients; now, such medicines represent as much as 70 pc of treatments.Faced with this situation, authorities resort to increasingly contradictory “strategies”, like that aimed at curbing the supply of medicines for the cost-free treatments of chronic diseases, like cancer. Another example is enforcing the co-payment system, based on the idea that “those who want more should pay more.” Thus, financing the medicines for chronic diseases is reduced because… the incidence of these illnesses has soared, same as the cost. This is a narrow-minded concept specific to politicians, equivalent to an indiscriminate death sentence. We should keep in mind that, set aside the aging population, more and more youths are suffering from chronic diseases.If such aberrant decisions no longer spark wide social protest, it is also because their incidence has increased these years. Plus, such decisions find a place in the programmes of nearly all parties, as soon as they ascend to power. For over 18 years, the financing allotted to the Health sector oscillated around 2 pc of the GDP and only in the last years it was raised near 4 pc, but without an administrative remedy. A reason for this situation is the fact that the distribution of money reflects the political colour of county administrations, rather than the constitutional imperative of an equal access to Health for all Romanians. This resulted in the present condition of many hospitals deprived of personnel, medical equipment, medicines etc, which relegates them to the position of modest units of social protection, in case they were not already closed down altogether. Their only role is giving a shelter to old people abandoned by everybody, also by their children who went to work abroad.All these serious setbacks are as many strong arguments in favour of saving the national health system. The former draft law of Health was abandoned following massive anti-government and anti-presidential protests at the beginning of this year, which implicitly accused the abandonment of the national attribute of the Health system in favour of a seasonal and regional character. Unfortunately, the new law of Health, which is being drafted by authorities, does not seem to have renounced the attribute of regionalisation. By enforcing this attribute, we risk having as many levels of quality in the Health system as the number of counties in Romania. Meanwhile, patients – especially terminal cases – will simply be treated as statistic figures.Authorities blame the errors that condemned so many people to suffering and death on the fact that their predecessors were not committed to reforming the Health system, with its problems that accumulated over an 18-year interval.The accusations brought to past governments are founded, but they do not excuse the equally severe errors and inconsistencies of today, also because the acting minister of Health is the same as that of the previous Cabinet. And the present minister of Health belongs to the same political party as the previous minister, in charge of the sector during 2008-2010. It is the very party that promotes an administrative de-centralisation thus conceived to split the national territory into autonomous parts.And now, when the minister and his party acted – and are still acting – in favour of such “decentralisation,” how is it possible for them to stay in the ruling coalition for so many years? There is but one answer: the governance that brings big material benefits to political clientele is incomparably more important than Romania’s historic destiny. This explains the fear sparked among Romanian politicians by the rumour about Swiss banks asking their deponents to prove that they paid taxes in their countries of origin.

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