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Bucharest
October 1, 2020
EDITORIAL

Governments come and go, poverty stays…

“Governments come and go, poverty stays”, a painful finding-turned-adage that acquires historic significance very much like “it’s all water under the bridge!”, yet with a negative connotation, as Romania of today’s politicians, from which they’ve drawn their vast riches, is so far removed from the country’s fabric which is so poor nowadays. After almost a quarter of a century of “glorious” promises from most of the politicians whose “wealth statements” put them in a league with Europe’s richest people, 70 pc of the country lives on the brink of poverty.This tragic reality is played down more often than not, if not ignored by political leaders altogether, of whom few are aware of this national tragedy.

Yes, today, more than ever, poverty in Romania is a genuine tragedy, given it boosts general, and mostly the infant mortality rate to unprecedented heights in Europe. Poverty is also responsible for the demographic collapse, which could lead to the Romanians being extinct within the next 150 years. If it happens that a minister realizing this tragedy to come up with a defence measure, the Romanian political landscape gets “flared up”, exposing its lack of principles and morality. This is exactly what happened when the current minister of health  who dared to propose, not decide himself – that the 2013 budget should focus mostly on public hospitals, which take care of 90 pc of the patients. The private hospitals will also be financed yet only for the medical services that public hospitals are unable to provide. The health minister, although of liberal leaning, came with this proposal as a responsible dignitary, aware of the tragedy experienced by the Romanian health system, but also aware o the underground businesses of hospital managers, mostly in the private sector, with state funding being used to the benefit of own businesses, and only then to patient care. An apparently leftist view, despite the minister belonging to the “right”. Yet, it was exactly this realistic approach, strictly rational “exception” that stirred much debate. These disputes prove, again, that what ministers are asked is not to be just and competent, but to defend group interests, including those of their government allies. This explains why a Social-Democrat, whose wealth puts him in a league with the grand aristocrats, was the first to take a stand against the “leftist” proposal of the health minister whose proposal was only rooted in the chronic poverty in Romania leading to a mortality beyond demographic balance.Under such circumstances where confusion and clan reasoning undermine any fair analysis in the health sector, contradictions keep succeeding, with representatives of all parties opposing co-payment during the recent electoral campaign. The overwhelming poverty-stricken Romanians definitively reject co-payment. And yet, after the recent meeting with the IMF delegation, all the government officials were in favour of it, an “updating” at odds with the previous stance, since the health minister speaks of a mere payment of RON 5 to 10 and only when the patient exits hospital. In their turn, some of the IMF officials say that the agreement stipulates for the RON 5 to 10 amount to be paid not once, but for each hospital day, with some exceptions referring to children, pregnant women and war veterans a.s.o. yet, a third stand belongs to those who have paid into the system for years and now ask that, since co-payment becomes mandatory, they such be returned the whole amount subscribed so far.Nobody is therefore surprised that Romania is in the leading position infant mortality rate position in Europe. The median age in Romania is way below that in Europe exactly due to this country toping the infant mortality rate list, and for cardiovascular diseases and TB as well, while also registering a high frequency of renal diseases, diabetes and even aids. We also rank first with respect to the frequency of cervical cancer, with 6 women dying from the disease every day, among others, also because the patient often has to procure their medication and medical materials required for their treatment. The infant mortality rate rose also because two years ago, the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest, the most prestigious vaccine manufacturer in southeast Europe, was closed down, with children vaccines being imported at prices 4-5 times higher than that of its Romanian counterparts. Only after the imported vaccines caused several children to get sick and the parents refusing the vaccination of their own children the Cantacuzino Institute began operating again. Yet, the reasons should have also been investigated why the Institute had to be closed, exactly in order to prevent such  errors from happening in the future. Who stood to lose from the Cantacuzino Institute vaccine exports?, who stood to benefit from Romania having spent over 86 M euro on imported vaccines in 2011 alone?The abusive closure of the Cantacuzino Institute led to half of its 800 workforce being laid off. When and how such losses will be recovered as long as February is expected to bring with it a new flu epidemic, already in full swing in some European countries and in America as well.

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