The medical crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus has revealed just how dysfunctional the Romanian healthcare system is.
The Romanian healthcare system is one of the worst performing in Europe. The effects of its severe underfunding in the last thirty years, irrespective of the party in power, are being felt harder than ever, in the context of the coronavirus crisis. The number of hospitals is too small to handle all people infected with Covid-19 and the patients suffering from chronic diseases. The medical equipment is, in most cases, obsolete and the staff is insufficient, given that thousands of doctors and nurses have left Romania for better jobs abroad. The situation is worse, even dramatic in small towns, where hospitals are severely understaffed and poorly equipped. That is why now, when the number of people infected with Covid-19 has surged to around 10 thousand per day, the healthcare system is under huge pressure.
The number of intensive care beds is too small, and even if solutions are found to supplement it, there is not enough medical staff. Moreover, as President Klaus Iohannis said five years ago, ”people had to die” for the authorities to actually start doing something about it. The recent tragedy at the County Hospital in Piatra Neamt, in north-eastern Romania, horrified the entire country. A number of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 burned alive in a fire that broke out in the intensive care unit where they were being treated. The fire could have been caused by a problem of a medical device in the ICU. On Wednesday the head of state met with decision makers and medical engineers, who presented him the results of an assessment of the medical infrastructure and the malfunctions at national level.
Following the meeting, President Iohannis said: ”First of all, the modernisation of medical gases, oxygen in particular, and of the electricity networks is needed. In this respect, we have found together the solution of drawing up a financing programme that uses European funds. Then we must revise the legislative and financial instruments for the service and maintenance system of hospital equipment. An important role will be played by medical engineers that must become more involved in the hospitals’ activity. These aspects will be part of the legislative package on the reform of the healthcare system, which is currently being drawn up by the Health Ministry. ”
The intentions are, of course, good but it remains to be seen when they become reality. President Iohannis has warned that this will be a long-term effort. (Translated by Elena Enache)