Rodica Pricop
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Wed, 12.03.2003
pte20030312032 Health/Medicine
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Acute crisis in Romanian healthcare
Lack of vaccines and sedatives, 100 hospitals to close

Bucharest (pte032/12.03.2003/12:52) - Patients in psychiatric wards in Romanian hospitals are being chained to their beds by medical staff because sedatives are no longer available, according to local media reports.

The Romanian Health Ministry has refused to confirm or deny the claims but confirmed to Reuters Health that a whole range of medical supplies other than just sedatives have been cut off by suppliers demanding payment of hundreds of millions of pounds they say is outstanding.

The suppliers are refusing to restart supplies until hospitals make some move towards repaying the debts which have already reached 3,500 billion Romanian lei (107 million dollars) for medicines. When water, heat and food costs are added the bill rises to 9,500 billion Romanian lei (273 million dollars).

The reports of patients being tied to the beds are the latest in a series of high profile media stories about the dire straits of the Romanian health service. Local quality Romanian daily Evenimentul Zilei' for example said patients at the Hospital of Psychiatry in Poroschia, southern Romania, had been chained to beds as a last resort because medicine to sedate patients had run out.

Mihaela Lazarescu, director of the hospital in Poroschia, refused to comment on the claims but admitted that the situation was desperate. Lazarescu said: "The toilets haven't been working for months now. There aren't enough staff to look after the patients and there are not even enough staff to take them out of their rooms for fresh air."

Doctors at other hospitals fear that supplies of medicines could run out within days, in some cases bringing a halt to the treatment of potentially lethal infectious diseases.

Director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bucharest, Dr Adrian Streinu Cercel, said at a press conference on March 5 that the hospital would run out of anti-rabies vaccines within days. He said: "We can hold on until next week. But I can't say what will happen then. Maybe we will only be able to take emergency cases." The admission is a serious one in Romania where the country is plagued with a stray-dog problem. More than 100,000 (corr) stray canines, some suspected of carrying rabies, wander the streets of the capital every day.

Director of the Cantacuzino hospital in Bucharest, Maura Popescu, also confirmed that the situation was dire, saying: "We can survive for at most three or four days, afterwards we will be out of even basic products. We don't have anything left."

Doctors say the only solution to the problem lies with the Romanian Finance Ministry, which recently took control of all funding for the healthcare sector.

Popescu said: "I think that the solution is in the hands of the Finance Ministry. It must release the funds to pay the debts to the suppliers."

The government has already pledged to give hospitals 1 billion lei (30,000 dollars) but has tied it in with demands hospitals deal with what Finance Minister Mihai Tanesescu described last month as "blatant financial indiscipline".

At the same time Health Minister Daniela Bartos said her ministry planned to cut 21,000 beds and close 100 of the country's 460 hospitals in an effort to further cut hospital debts.

Submitter: pressetext.europe
Contact: Rodica Pricop
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319