Children’s hospital opens thanks to donations in Romania

(Bucharest) Eric, 15 months old, suffering from a brain tumor, walks through brightly colored corridors: a new children’s hospital has just opened in Romania, financed exclusively by private donations in a country with a medical sector dilapidated.

When the first little patients arrived in April in these impeccable places, the property of which has now been ceded to the State, Oana Gheorghiu had to pinch herself to believe it.

At the origin of the project born in 2015 in Bucharest, this co-founder of the Daruieste Viata (Give Life) association would never have suspected the wave of empathy that her call would generate.

“We have so little confidence in each other,” she confided to AFP. “But ultimately, Romanians just need causes that are close to their hearts.”

Nearly 8,000 companies and 350,000 individuals – including the iconic American heavy metal group Metallica – contributed their tithe for a total of 53 million euros (78 million Canadian dollars).

Twenty million ($30 million) comes from micro-donations of two and four euros ($3 to six) via text message. It’s proof that “anything is possible,” smiles his partner Carmen Uscatu.

“Slap for politicians”

Faced with the failures of the State, these two economics graduates decided to take matters into their own hands, moved by the plight of sick children: the cancer survival rate is among the lowest in the European Union (70% compared to an average of 81%).

The NGO, which has seen twelve Ministers of Health pass without anything changing, points to “a mixture of incompetence, lack of vision, and corruption”.

For actor and musician Tudor Chirila, one of the donors, this unprecedented initiative is “a slap in the face to the politicians who have done nothing”.

Since the fall of communism in 1989, Romania has allowed its hospitals to gradually deteriorate. Most buildings were built before 1970 and “no longer meet standards”, according to a recent report from the Court of Auditors.

Despite vigorous growth, the country has the lowest rate of health spending per capita in the EU (713 euros, or $1,050), according to the latest figures from Eurostat. And fails to retain its doctors, more than 15,000 of whom have emigrated since its entry into the Union in 2007.

Built on the grounds of a public hospital, the modern nine-story gray and yellow establishment stands out in the landscape. In a warm setting, it offers 140 beds and oncology, surgery and intensive care services.

Games rooms, cinema, astronomical observatory on the roof: everything is done to soften the daily lives of young patients.

” Like at home ”

Little Eric, who suffers from neuroblastoma, one of the most common pediatric cancers, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, runs around the building wearing Mickey Mouse pants.

On the floor, a yellow sticker encourages him to “dance”, he who is fidgeting and escapes from his mother’s arms.

After two months in the adjacent dilapidated wing, Ildiz Ivan, 41, welcomes the “radical change” of decor. “If I ignore the presence of doctors and nurses, I feel like I’m at home,” she says.

The medical profession is also delighted. “Our relationship with patients is different”, more peaceful, underlines hematologist Madalina Schmidt, who lived 400 km away and moved to Bucharest for the chance to work in such conditions.

The association, while keeping an eye on the management of the hospital, now hopes to raise money to continue its mission and create a real medical campus.

“We can’t stop there,” says Carmen Uscatu, who dreams of profoundly changing the system. So that parents of sick children no longer go abroad for treatment, “as our politicians always do”.


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