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Bucharest
March 8, 2021
HEALTH Social SOCIAL & HEALTH

Hospital disinfectants scandals persists despite Health Minister’s resignation

* PM Ciolos takes over as acting Health Minister

* President Iohannis: “In the healthcare system things can no longer continue as they have so far”

 

Health Minister Patriciu Achimas Cadariu resigned on Monday morning, being the fourth minister that leaves the government in less than a month. Premier Ciolos accepted his resignation. He will make a new nomination that he will forward to President Iohannis.

“I have accepted today Mr. Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu’s resignation as Health Minister. In the period immediately ahead, I shall forward Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis a proposal for a new Health Minister,” Ciolos said in a press statement.

Outgoing Health Minister Patriciu Achimas Cadariu explained on Monday afternoon the reasons why he chose to resign and talked about the disinfectants scandal.

“Our main preoccupation is citizen safety. I don’t believe patients should be drawn into a game in which panic is induced, because it’s the only system we have and most patients cannot afford to buy a ticket and leave the country,” Patriciu Achimas Cadariu stated.

In what concerns the disinfectants issue, the outgoing Health Minister explained that they represent “a part of the healthcare system and a part of nosocomial infections.” “I recently launched the nosocomial infections control plan, whose goal is to restore patients’ confidence. Such a plan does not consist of makeshift measures or noisy publicity on television. (…) I am part of the system and I want the changing of the system and I made use of all of my good intentions,” Patriciu Achimas Cadariu added.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos and President Klaus Iohannis agreed that the former should become acting Health Minister in order to engage in direct coordination and to ensure the continuity of measures required.

In fact, Premier Dacian Ciolos had stated last Friday that he did not take into account replacing Health Minister Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu at this moment, pointing out that he is interested in finding solutions to the healthcare system’s problems and in “bringing to light other problems that could appear.”

“I believe we’ve had at least ten Health Ministers in the last six or seven years. It’s clear one cannot implement reform in such situations. I am now primarily interested in finding solutions to the problem that has appeared, to in fact clarify things there, in what concerns these disinfectants,” Ciolos stated on Friday.

On Monday morning, the Health Minister had talks with Dacian Ciolos after the two attended a meeting with healthcare specialists. The Health Ministry’s resignation comes in the midst of the scandal surrounding the disinfectants supplied by Hexi Pharma and used in hospitals.

According to government sources quoted by Mediafax, Achimas-Cadariu decided to resign because he disagreed with the way in which the management of the hospital disinfectants crisis was decided within the government. On Friday, a protest meeting took place in Bucharest, demanding the resignation of Minister Patriciu Achimas Cadariu, and on Saturday Premier Dacian Ciolos convened at the government a meeting with healthcare specialists in order to find a solution in this situation. Cadariu did not attend that meeting although initially there had been information about his presence there.

The hospital disinfectants scandal erupted after ‘Gazeta Sporturilor’ and journalist Catalin Tolontan revealed, based on statements made and documents presented by former Hexi Pharma employees, that the disinfectants supplied by that company to hospitals had concentration levels lower than claimed by their labels. Likewise, journalists informed that Hexi Pharma owner Dan Condrea is shareholder of a company that offers cleaning services in hospitals, that company’s administrator also being the administrator of Unilab, the laboratory tasked with verifying the quality of the disinfectants used. The analyses carried out within the state-owned ICECHIM laboratory showed that the disinfectants supplied by Hexi Pharma had concentration levels up to 10 times smaller than the levels inscribed on their labels.

Following these press revelations, the General Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation and the Health Minister ordered verifications at hospitals.

Last week, Cadariu stated at a press conference that less than 5 percent of the samples tested had lower concentration levels. Subsequently, the list published by the Health Ministry showed that 50 hospitals in 23 counties, including Bucharest, have problems with disinfectants supplied by Hexi Pharma.

Referring to this scandal, Cadariu stated last week that he is the target of a campaign and that he knows that the campaign would continue in the following days too. He even referred to a possible dismissal or resignation, however he suggested he would not be affected by such a situation. “I know what campaign is being prepared against me today and will continue in the following days. You will find out,” Cadariu had stated in an interview for Digi24. “I only did two things: I obeyed the law, doubled the number of verifications, raised the number of fines, removed from office (…) and I focused on the governing programme,” he stated.

Asked why the issue was not known, Cadariu stated that “you have no reason to verify this. These things are regulated by documents. The way they enter the market is regulated by laws, trust is a currency used a lot.”

Moreover, he said, “the verification is carried out indirectly through sanitation tests” that entail verifying the way these disinfectants work, basically taking samples from surfaces cleaned with these disinfectants. “This is the standard accredited procedure. This thing has been done forever,” he explained.

“There are these sanitation tests that are mandatory in every hospital,” the minister said, adding however that reports are not coming from many hospitals. “I have discovered that things that should be reported go unreported,” he added.

 

President Iohannis: “Profound problems will not be solved by one resignation”

 

During the speech he gave at the Cotroceni Palace on Europe’s Day on Monday, President Klaus Iohannis talked about the problems the Romanian healthcare system is facing.

“Corruption and prosperity do not go together. And prosperity does not exist without health. We find ourselves in a moment of major crisis for the healthcare system, with serious implications for the lives of Romanians. This system’s profound problems will not be solved just by one resignation or by case-by-case measures, they call for sustainable solutions with concrete effects and a long-term plan. We have the obligation to rapidly identify the means to protect people who are getting treatment in Romanian hospitals. I am permanently in touch with the Prime Minister on this topic,” Klaus Iohannis pointed out.

The President added that “we are at a turning point” and that “in the healthcare system things can no longer continue as they have so far.” “There is only one direction to follow for all relevant institutions: the cleaning up of the healthcare system. We have to put a stop to corruption, the squandering of public funds and disinterestedness,” the President pointed out.

 

SRI: Ministers, Prime Minister and Romania’s President received intelligence reports on the disfunctionalities

 

A source used by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) revealed, through ‘Gazeta Sporturilor,’ a document he had sent to his case officers in October 2014. In it, the epidemiologist was detailing the fixing of a tender at a county hospital, a tender won by the distributor of France’s Anios, the world’s biggest producer, an article posted on tolo.ro shows.

For 8 years, the epidemiologist explained to SRI officers how people were dying in poorly-disinfected hospitals and how the bacteria multiply, Mirela Neag, Razvan Lutac and Catalin Tolontan write.

“SRI informs legal decision-makers on the vulnerabilities of the public healthcare system. In the reports forwarded to legal beneficiaries, reports on the issue of nosocomial infections, there were aspects concerning the improper quality of disinfectants used in hospitals. The chairmen of county councils, prefects, ministers, the prime minister, the Romanian President are among the legal beneficiaries of our intelligence reports. All these legal beneficiaries received constant reports, each in line with his prerogatives, on the Romanian public healthcare system’s dysfunctionalities,” a SRI communiqué reads.

“In the last five years, SRI sent approximately 100 reports, including on issues related to the nosocomial infections phenomenon,” the institution adds.

 

Traian Basescu: “I believe it is fair and necessary for the reports forwarded to the Romanian President on this topic to be declassified by SRI’

 

Traian Basescu wrote on Facebook on Monday that SRI has to declassify the nosocomial infections reports it sent to the Presidency, after the Service claimed in a communiqué that it sent around 100 reports to legal beneficiaries, including reports on the nosocomial infections phenomenon.

Traian Basescu stated on Digi24 on Friday that he was surprised to find out that the diluted disinfectants issue is older than ten years, since SRI did not inform him during his tenure.

“From the statements of the SRI spokesperson I understand that in the last 5 years the institution informed the Presidency about the treatment of infections in hospitals with diluted disinfectants supplied by Mr. Condrea’s company or by any other supplier that diluted (counterfeited) disinfectants. I believe it is fair and necessary for the reports forwarded to the Romanian President on this topic to be declassified by SRI,” the ex-president wrote on Facebook on Monday.

On the other hand, according to a clarification brought by the Presidency on Monday, and quoted by Agerpres, the intelligence reports the Romanian President receives are classified and strictly classified.

Traian Basescu had answered a Facebook user’s comment that accused him of remaining silent on this issue and of choosing to undergo surgery abroad.

“I wasn’t silent. In 2008, there was a Presidential Commission’s report that, at page 34, points out the danger of nosocomial infections. The report was sent to the Government and made public. Moreover, in January 2012 a health reform law was met by street protests. A President can’t do more than that. But maybe you also recall the support the press gave to burying the law,” the former Head of State wrote.

 

Explanation from one Hexi Pharma director: The chemical process is to blame

 

Hexi Pharma Production Director Mihail Leva does not deny that the disinfectants sold by the company are diluted. He explained, exclusively for Digi24, a possible cause of the disinfectants’ dilution. He claims they were not diluted intentionally but as a result of normal chemical processes.

“Any chemical product, the moment it forms a mixture with another chemical substance, runs the risk of losing some of its activity. And this is claimed by all producers of chemical substances. So if the ministry will attempt to test the active substance they will have the big surprise of discovering that none of the disinfectants contain what the label says,” Mihail Leva said.

 

Former Minister Nicolaescu: I don’t recall receiving any SRI report on disinfectants issue

 

Former Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu stated on Monday that he does not recall receiving, during his second term in office, any SRI intelligence report on the issue of disinfectants or concerning certain companies.

“I don’t recall receiving, during my second term in office, in 2013, any SRI report on disinfectants or certain companies. Had this taken place, I still would have been able to recall, since normally such a report goes to the Health Inspection which is empowered, by law, to run verifications that end with the forwarding of reports that also include a series of conclusions and measures. I don’t recall ever receiving a report on this topic,” Nicolaescu stated in Parliament.

 

PM Ciolos denies getting information from Intelligence Service on hospital disinfectants

 

As controversies persisted in the matter of hospital disinfectants, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos stated on Monday that he received no information from the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) on the healthcare system. He mentioned, however, a recent discussion with Service’s head Eduard Hellvig, whom he asked for support.

Ciolos said that Hellvig answered he would send the premier a synthesis of SRI’s previous reports on the matter.

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