Well I have about a billion other things to do today but my inbox has been blowing up about a story from my ancient nemesis, Alison Mutler so I guess I’ll have to address it.
The unsleeping eye actually picked this up last week but if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the original English version and here is the Romanian version. I should add that this is a wire report, which means it got reprinted in dozens (if not hundreds) of English-language newspapers around the world. And yet no one, and I mean no one, not even in Romania, has bothered to do even the slightest bit of analysis or further research. I mean how hard is it to send a (Romanian) reporter down to a hospital in Bucharest and check this shit out? Ah well. I guess there’s urgent cases of bear paw smuggling that are the priority.
The story makes it seem like heartless doctors and medical staff are letting babies die. It’s a particular evil bit of propaganda because, like all good lies, it is partially based on something that is true. Lets first review the “facts” of this case:
Dr Cirstoveanu has launched a lonely crusade to save babies who come to him for care. He flies them to Western Europe on budget flights so they can be treated by doctors who don’t demand kickbacks. That’s what he did last week for 13-day-old Catalin, who needed heart surgery. Dr Cirstoveanu packed a small bag, slipped emergency breathing equipment into the baby carrier and caught a cheap flight to Italy, where doctors were waiting to perform the surgery.
The operation was successful. Two days later, though, a three-week-old baby that Dr Cirstoveanu whisked away to the same clinic in Italy – with tubes piercing her tiny frame – died before she was able to have lymph gland surgery. “I was very worried it wouldn’t work,” he said. “But in Romania, she would have died anyway.”
The scene is set where our lonely and heroic Doctor Cirstoveanu is working inside a gleaming, modern government hospital but he can’t save those poor little kiddies because the evil nurses and other doctors refuse to do anything if they don’t get a bribe. So our hero “packs a small bag” and then flies the kids to other European countries where those brave and honest incorrupt doctors over there do the work without a bribe. So now we should cheer Doctor Cirstoveanu and waggle our fingers and cluck over the maliciousness of his colleagues, eh?
But wait, there’s more:
Patients in Romania – a member of the European Union – routinely discuss the “stock market” rate for bribes. Surgeons can get hundreds of euros and upward for an operation, while anesthetists get roughly a third of that, depending upon what a patient can afford. Nurses receive a few euros from patients each time they administer medications or put in drips. Getting a certificate stamped to have an operation abroad can easily cost hundreds, if not thousands of euros if you ask the wrong doctor. While the Romanian state appears unwilling to do anything, it often ends up footing the bill.
At Dr Cirstoveanu’s unit in the Marie Curie hospital, Catalin’s operation would have cost €2,000-€3,000 (£1,666-£2,500) without bribes. Romanian state health insurance is paying 10 times that for his operation in Italy – a small fortune in a country where the average monthly salary is €350 after tax.
There’s an interesting fact buried in this article. First, even a “low cost” flight to Italy costs 100 or more euros, a heck of a lot of money to be spending if that was coming out of Our Heroic Doctor’s own pockets. But he is not paying for it although I noticed he is flying with the patients (he’s also mentioned going to Germany and Austria). He is getting one of his colleagues to approve surgery in another country, something which Mutler specifically mentions requires a bribe. Or excuse me, unless you find a non-corrupt official to stamp the paperwork. So is our Heroic Doctor bribing the official to approve these flights and operations in other countries? Or is the official authorizing these also honest and pure? And if they’re so honest and pure, where is their name mentioned in all of this?
And per the “standard” Mutler, the story is made artificially lengthier with a bunch of irrelevant shit like some quote from a 2005 report (hey that was seven years ago) about bribery and then throwing in the old 1980′s Ceausescu orphan stuff. Totally unnecessary and just added as “filler” to the article.
But just for a moment let’s assume all the facts in evidence are true – nobody wants to work for Doctor Cirstoveanu because he has “banned bribes” in his department and luckily he has an anonymous honest person authorizing constant flying to other countries. Are those workers who do ask for a bribe evil? Are they bad people?
The long and short of it is that all medical workers in Romania are drastically underpaid. And this right here is the key paragraph:
Many disillusioned doctors have abandoned the country, which spends only 4 per cent of its gross domestic product in healthcare – about half the percentage of GDP spent by Western European countries. Last year, some 2,800 Romanian doctors – discouraged by the antiquated and corrupt health system and low wages – left to work in Western Europe, according to the Romanian College of Doctors.
Romania doesn’t spend enough on its (government employee) medical staff. So what is called a “bribe” is really just equalizing their pay by getting money from the patients directly instead of the government (via people’s taxes). In other words, Romania’s system is just like America’s except in America the prices are printed on a piece of paper and in Romania it’s called a “kickback” or a “bribe”.
And the reason the doctors in Italy, Germany and Austria or wherever else Cirstoveanu is flying around to don’t ask for a “bribe” is not because they don’t need any extra money and it’s not because they’re so noble and pure-hearted and not filthy baby killers like in Romania, it’s because they get paid enough the “normal” way, by their employer (the government).
Now what’s interesting is that IMF documents (and God knows I’ve written about this enough here lately) and those in Romanian politics who do the IMF’s bidding are all pushing to reduce spending on medical care. The IMF is the one who slashed salaries for public doctors and nurses in the first fucking place. In fact, it was their bright idea to start cutting out SMURD services that led to Rael Arafat’s resignation and all the protests at the beginning of this year. So therefore it is the IMF and their servants in the Romanian government who are making all this bribe taking far worse.
Yet does anyone say that? Does anyone mention that even in the Romanian media? Hell no. They’re far too lazy to probably even bother putting it together even though it’d help some of them politically. I also note that Mutler’s fun little article comes right when the IMF is now pushing for something they call “clawback”, wherein the government is supposed to take back some of the money it has already spent on public healthcare. Isn’t that a fun little coincidence of timing?
What’s also really interesting is that on the hospital’s website, Doctor Cirstoveanu’s name is listed alongside two other doctors, Silvia Costineanu and Mihaela Dogaru, in the incredibly difficult to find “neonatal intensive care” department of the hospital. Do these two women take bribes? In other words, are they filthy baby killers too? I find it odd that they weren’t interviewed since they are apparently the only other doctors in this section. I mean you’d think if they were Honest And Heroic they’d be included, but if they’re Evil Bribe Takers then how exactly is it they work with Doctor Cirstoveanu (mentioned as on a “lonely crusade”) since apparently he can’t get anyone to work with him (who doesn’t take “bribes”)? I guess we’ll never know.
“Backwards engineering” this little gem of an article, it looks like someone down at Proctor and Gamble got on the phone and starting bitching to Alison Mutler. So she took a quick trip down to the hospital, met with the Heroic Doctor and then returned home to write one of her classic “Romania sucks” articles, complete right down to the inclusion of a Downtrodden Gypsy (always a mandatory bit). And now she gets a burst of pride watching the feedback and kudos from around the world while the Pig Man and his minions get a chuckle out of her usefulness in the furtherance of their long-term plans for this country.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!