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Bucharest
October 1, 2020
EDITORIAL

Health in coma

Many of the crisis in Romania are systemic. They appear and manifest themselves due to a structural deficit first and foremost, even if their magnitude and gravity are enhanced by some local factors. This cruel truth applies to health, Education but other sectors as well, and they are so unpalatable to government officials, who got used to resorting to adjacent, subliminal, and therefore less shocking images, any time European studies reflect the systemic deficit in one Romanian sector or another. A recent study again highlighted the fact that the Romanian health system experiences the worst crisis EU-wide, with hospitals having to resort to “waiting lists” for patients. This could have horrible consequences, as was the case with a cancer patient from Buzau who died waiting for his medicines in a polyclinic.Once such shocking reality was made public, the specialized ministry opened an inquiry at the most indebted hospitals unable to admit patients.

There are 22 large hospitals in Romania who amassed a pile of debt matching over 80 m euro and are unable to admit patients in due time. While the inquiry is welcome, its outcomes cannot hide the basic truth that the Romanian health system is underfunded. While the EU average health fund accounts for 8 pc of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in Romania it only comes to under 4 pc, which makes Romania rank bottom in this department. This is where all the dramas and tragedies in the health sector are rooted in. With an underpaid staff, corruption in the health system grows bigger and bigger. Sociological studies show that nearly 30 pc of doctors make patient treatment conditional to substantial amounts paid beforehand, and the pressure put on patients makes them pay even before they are demanded so.And this is how the structural deficit gets larger and larger. The insufficient pay causes many medical staff to emigrate in increasing numbers, with circa 5,000 of them moving abroad in the first half of this year alone. And the trend is expected to grow worse in the second half, with the fresh graduates adding to the bulk. Since is where the unofficial “colony” status the opposition attaches to Romania originates from. And that, since after spending money for 12 to 17 years to prepare students pass thru all educational levels, including higher learning, they leave exactly when they could bring their professional contribution. Some studies put Romania’s losses from emigration at 20 bln euro.Given the circumstances, Romania’s patient population is increasingly high. Rural areas, where 46 pc of Romanians live, are serviced by a mere 9 pc of medical doctors. This dire reality led some decision-makers to rely on patients going to urban hospital units, many of which, nearly 60 to be more exact, however vanished also due to the financial crisis. This translates in ambulances having to run even longer distances to get to patients and bring them to hospital. In its turn, disease fuels poverty, with Romania being the second-poorest EU member country, with close to 50 pc of Romanians living on a maximum of 100 euro a month.This in turn leads to Romania being among the EU countries with the highest mortality rate, with the median age in Romania below the European average, and occupying the top slot with respect to infant mortality, cardio-vascular disease and tuberculosis. , and even worse with regard to renal diseases, diabetes, cancer and even AIDS. We also rank first in Europe cervical cancer wise, with 6 women dying every day from the disease, among others, since patients have to procure the medicines all by themselves, a practice due to the inadequate health budget, which led to a plethora of bogus medicines. Over 50 pc of the medicines available on the Internet are fake, this is a fact. Also, some studies warn about a small percentage of such medicines making inroads in pharmacies as well. Confronted with such realities, authorities shrug off, saying that ‘here, the fake medicine industry is so wide-ranging that it’s impossible to keep under control; massive emigration created a lack of experts and that’s that! Decision-makers explain the high infant mortality rate not only by the lack of vaccines and medicines in general, but also by the vaccination process being flawed. Children should be vaccinated at the age of 7, 9 and 14. Vaccination was also carried out in schools, yet, the Health Ministry now learned that circa 70 pc of the unvaccinated children either were absent on vaccination day or dropped out of school, which led the ministry to switch vaccination from schools to GPs, who in their turn say that, henceforth, the percentage rate of unvaccinated children will rise instead of fall, due to the ignorance of both parents and children. Lost in the dispute is an even more serious fact: the increase in infant mortality rate given that the vaccine required on the third day after birth no longer exists, given that the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest and its Iasi branch closed, which means that the Romanian vaccine production is nil. Therefore, they are increasingly difficult to procure given the quasi-generalized poverty in this country.Health discrimination has become so serious it affects Romania’s national security. The growing mortality rate, the almost 1 M abortions performed every year, the negative demographic indices, they all threaten the very existence of the state. This is why the magnitude of such tragedies call for political forces, all decision-makers, to show solidarity in salvaging Romania and its people.

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