In the typically Romanian saying ‘Water under the bridge’, our major encyclopaedist Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu identified the proof of the bi-millennial age of the Romanian people. Today, however, the same saying has acquired a negative meaning: ‘Governments are the water under the bridge, poverty is the bridge’. The negative meaning of the phrase is sourced from the fact that the Romania of the politicians of today, who have become rich overnight, is fundamentally different to the profound Romania, which is at the antipode of the former exactly because of the fact that its producers of values are also the poorest. After a quarter of a century of glorious promises made by politicians whose ‘financial disclosures’ put them among the top richest Europeans, over 70 per cent of the Romanian population is at stick and lift, living below the poverty threshold.
Under such conditions, no one is surprised that the average life expectancy in Romania is a lot shorter than in Europe, because we occupy a painful top position in child mortality, cardio-vascular, diabetes and even AIDS mortality. We are in the first position in Europe when it comes to cervical cancer: six women perish every day because of this illness. Such drama and tragedies also come from the fact that, in the last twenty years, patients have often had to buy their own medication and medical supplies, because the public financial allocations to healthcare are tapped at the undergrounds of unclean arrangements.
Such critical state of the healthcare system in Romania is also confirmed by the situation of the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest, whose workers were recently on strike claiming unpaid salaries in over three months. The institute enjoys a great scientific prestige including in Europe, which disturbs the organised crime of drug production and distribution. Child mortality is so high in Romania exactly because, since ten years ago, this institute that used to be the most prestigious producer of serums and vaccines in South0-Eastern Europe, has been constantly under all sorts of pressure by the numerous and also very solidary foreign pharmaceutical companies that produce and distribute drugs at much higher prices than the Romanian products. In addition, the immunisation with imported vaccines while the Cantacuzino Institute was closed caused several children to become sick. After that episode, the authorities had no choice but to temporarily ignore the foreign pressure and re-open the Cantacuzino Institute.
Before 1990, over 1,400 researchers were working at the Cantacuzino Institute and their professional quality was recognized everywhere in Europe, including by the massive export of serums and vaccines produced there. But, because of under-financing by the authorities subjected to foreign pressure, the number of researchers knew a dramatic decline and the technological activities of the institute were frequently undermined. All that led to an amplification of vaccine imports to the point where, the state, pressurised by the astronomical prices, had no choice but to turn to the institute again. The only problem was that, in the meantime, exactly because of such political oscillations, mortality rates are surging not just among newborn infants, but also among elderly Romanians.
Thanks to the upcoming election campaign where politicians feel urged to make some concessions, the Cantacuzino Institute personnel has been recently paid their overdue salaries and received some other promises, Also because the elderly voters who are increasing in number and who are becoming dependent on the serums and vaccines produced at the Institute can make or break an election score. So, during this pre-electoral phase, the government and the opposition forces are clashed in a genuine war of statements on the state of health, including of older persons. The state of health of the retired people is deteriorating because retirement benefits are extremely low here compared to the rest of Europe and to everyday expenditures. For all these reasons, the investment retired persons make in their own state of health is quite low. Only 25 per cent of Romanians can afford to spend more than 10 USD on medicaments every month. Such dramatic facts characterizing the general health condition of Romanians are also explained by the very high prices of import medicaments. But why do foreign drugs dominate the Romanian market? Because, as the current condition of the Cantacuzino Institute shows, the local pharmaceutical industry has been ignored in order to be easily annihilated by fraudulent privatizations putting it in the hands of foreign companies. Exactly the companies that now call the shots on the pharmaceutical market.
The scale of such moves is so large that some historians even claim Romania was only admitted into the EU after its local production in general, including in the pharmaceutical field, had collapsed, making the country a huge and profitable market.