A while ago a young Romanian – who has for some years lived in the United States – wrote to us to express her indignation at the suggestion we make (in fact, accusation we make) in Bucharest In Your Pocket that in Romanian hospitals corruption is rife. As we put it:
‘in hospitals you will need to tip before anything happens. No nurse, doctor will lay eyes on you without having been paid handsomely beforehand.’
Well, we stuck by our story then and are sticking by it now. We know first hand how the system works. Unlike the young lady in question we actually live in Bucharest and regularly have to deal with the health system. When we take the kids to the doctor, 50 lei gets left on the desk. When you go to a hospital, it’s the same: you pay whatever the going rate is. To deny that this does not happen is far worse than standing up and recognising that it does.
One notable exception is the Grigore Alexandru children’s hospital on Stefan cel Mare. This is indeed an exceptional place in terms of cleanliness, friendliness of staff and care offered. Above all, nobody here expects any money.
It was therefore with interest that we read this morning’s Libertatea, which has a detailed report on how big a bribe you have to pay in each of Bucharest’s hospitals for various operations.
Some of the amounts are huge: up to €3000 for a birth at the maternity ward of the Elias hospital, considered the city’s best. €300 for a simple hernia operation. Even getting a nurse to change a dressing costs money in Bucharest’s hospitals.
Now, Libertatea may be a lousy, tabloid rag, but there is no question that its findings fit with our – and with so many other peoples’ – experiences.
In hospital in Romania, you pay. It is as simple as that.
As the man once said: ‘nice place, just don’t ever get sick.’