A case study of Romania’s healthcare system

Question: what do you do if your child gets sick on a weekend in Romania?
Answer: nothing; not an effing thing, not unless you want to deal with Romania’s state health system.

Sophie got sick over the weekend. We initially thought it was a mild case of heat stroke. Now we think it’s enterocolitis.

We don’t frequent state-run hospitals in Romania, because the doctors and nurses are more often than not undertrained and uncaring unless you bribe them, and the facilities are incredibly dirty and overrun with filthy, smelly “citizens” — you know, the kind of “citizens” who don’t contribute a cent toward the very services they overrun.

When she started to complain of a headache and tummy ache and started to go limp in Ligia’s arms, we panicked. We thought, okay, let’s hop in the car and drive to the private Polisano hospital in Sibiu, which is where we typically go on the rare occasions when we need medical care.

An aside: we don’t go to the state-run hospital in Medias, which is where we live, because it’s packed full of the same medical staff I mentioned above and is also full of the same “citizens” in its waiting rooms. The last and only time we tried using the emergency room at the hospital in Medias, Sophie could have literally died for lack of care and concern on the part of the staff, who were more concerned with the “citizens” than with tax-paying, hard-working people like us. But hey, the SMURD helicopters can fly low right over our houses to ferry the dirty dipshits to the emergency rooms, waking us up and scaring our children at night, because why not, dirty dipshits are more important than tax-paying, law-abiding, decent people.

Back to Polisano. Turned out they were closed on weekends. What kind of a hospital is closed on weekends?! So there were no private, paying alternatives for people like us on a weekend. We were pointed in the direction of the state-run emergency room.

We walked in. It was chock full of dirty, smelly “citizens”, some of them yelling at the nurses. Some dipshit was yelling about suing the hospital, so everyone could hear him. The door to the treatment room got slammed into his face by one of the nurses (good on her). There was grime everywhere in the public areas, even on the walls. There weren’t enough chairs. “People” were standing up, emanating the unmistakable stenches of unwashed sweat, layers of it, that had been alternately drying up and getting wet again on them for days on end. NO way we were staying there. We walked out with nowhere to go.

Thankfully, Sophie started feeling better. We took a walk through Sibiu’s historic district with her. We held her in our arms. When we got back to the car, she started complaining again about aches. We were at a loss, with nowhere to go.

Sophie’s usual pediatrician doesn’t answer her phone on weekends. Most of the doctors in Romania don’t answer their phone on weekends, as if diseases and accidents take a break on the weekends as well. A pediatrician in Medias even yelled at me when I called her on a Saturday, told me not to bother her and go to the emergency room.

I got in touch with my dad, who is a doctor — albeit not a pediatrician, but a psychiatrist and a damn good one if I might add. He lives in another part of the country, so he couldn’t see Sophie personally, but judging from her symptoms, he eliminated heat stroke and pointed us toward the likely possibility of enterocolitis, probably contracted at the kindergarten. We picked up some furazolidone for her from the only pharmacy in town open 24 hours and drove home.

As a last reminder of how shitty the healthcare system is in Romania, the hallway leading up to the pharmacy stank to high heaven of a filthy mix of old perspiration and urine. I complained to the pharmacist, who apologized and said about half an hour before me, a gypsy woman had come in for something and left the pungent odour behind her. The pharmacist had opened all of the windows to air out the stench, but it was stubbornly clinging to the space.

Conclusion: For f***sake, don’t get sick on weekends in Romania. Better yet, just don’t get sick in Romania, period, end of story.

RPOP-2016-04-0791
Gallery

Springtime in our garden

It’s become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me to share photos of our garden with you. Here then is this year’s selection of spring photos. I hope the flowers bring as much joy to you as they do to me.

I feel blessed every time I take a walk through the garden. I particularly like to walk through it in the evenings, because it helps me unwind from our typically busy days. It’s our little corner of heaven. It requires upkeep, to be sure, but the payoff is grand.

This spring not many flowers escaped our little Sophie’s eager hands. Her passion is to collect daily bouquets of assorted flowers of all sorts of shapes and colors, and that means most of the flowers are to be found on her playtable inside the house, not in the garden, at least this year. We’ll see how we fare during the next seasons.

RPOP-2016-04-0036
Gallery

Photos from Timisoara’s historic district

We visited Timisoara for business recently. I took my camera along and we set a bit of time aside to walk through the historic district and take photographs.

It was a sunny, breezy Saturday afternoon and lots of people were out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather and the youthful, cheery atmosphere of the city.

There are also a couple of shots of the streets at night in here, taken from our hotel’s balcony.

Electricity in Romania

Here’s what I keep saying to every friend and acquaintance who visits my house: you definitely need a voltage stabilizer if you live in Romania.

voltage-stabilizer

Around midnight last night the current started fluctuating wildly. Our UPS units were going crazy, clicking and kicking on and off, trying to contain the power fluctuations and cutoffs. After quickly shutting off all important equipment in the office, I went to see the voltage stabilizer down in the basement. It was going nuts as well trying to keep the current to our house stable, its arms moving quickly back and forth across the copper coils, barely containing the madness. I shut off all current to the house, fearing the stabilizer would burn out.

As I write this, it’s past noon (the following day) and the current still isn’t back on. Oh, it’s been back on and off sporadically, but nothing reliable to speak of. And I found out from one of our neighbors that the scrambling and bungling Electrica (that’s the power company) employees reversed the polarity on one of the phases in the neighborhood, which means they potentially burned out some people’s electrical appliances. As a matter of fact, another neighbor said his heating furnace shorted out and almost caught fire from all the electricity problems during the night.

This is part of the price one pays for living in Romania. It’s a beautiful country, but as they say, caveat emptor.

You may recall unreliable electrical power was partly to blame for a massive data loss that occurred to me a few years ago, before I replaced all wiring and fuses in the house and added the voltage stabilizer. The Drobo units I was using then simply didn’t have the capability to keep the data uncorrupted when experiencing multiple power failures within a short amount of time. They’d simply lose track of some bits, and then the corruption would spread across the drives, eating more and more data, to the point where the Drobo would cease to mount. Nowadays, Drobos come with built-in batteries that allow them to safely complete data operations and shut off in case of a power failure, and they also have some algorithms in place to ensure that data corruption is kept at bay, but it’s hard to trust a device meant to keep your data safe once it’s lost about 20% of your most treasured data, isn’t it?

RTTE-010 Screenshot
Video

Romania Through Their Eyes – Mark Treon (RTTE-010)

Mark Treon and I sat down for a conversation about Romania on 7/8/15, in my studio. Mark has been coming to Romania since 1991, has made over 30 trips to the country and has also adopted a child here, which has bound him even closer to the country. He is now renovating three Saxon homes in the village of Richis and plans to turn them into an inn.

This is the tenth episode of “Romania Through Their Eyes”, a show featuring interviews with foreigners living in Romania. The show’s purpose is to get their impressions about the country and to start a dialogue which will lead to a greater understanding of the issues facing Romanians and Romania.

Music: “Ballade no. 4 in F minor, Op. 52” by Frederic Chopin, performed by Frank Levy. Track is public domain, obtained from Musopen.org.

RTTE-010-EN-HD
Released 7/13/15

Raoul Pop and Tom Lovelock
Video

Romania Through Their Eyes – Tom Lovelock (RTTE-009)

Four years and two months after the first interview with Tom Lovelock, we sit down for a second time and talk about Romania.

Tom Lovelock is a retired sales manager for Jaguar and an ex-policeman from the UK, who moved to Romania together with his wife five years ago (at the time of filming this episode).

This is the ninth episode of “Romania Through Their Eyes”, a show featuring interviews with foreigners living in Romania. The show’s purpose is to get their impressions about the country and to start a dialogue which will lead to a greater understanding of the issues facing Romanians and Romania.

Music: “Ballade no. 4 in F minor, Op. 52” by Frederic Chopin, performed by Frank Levy. Track is public domain, obtained from Musopen.org.

RTTE-009-EN-HD
Released 4/17/15

RPOP-2014-08-0407

A hike through the hills of Atel (Hetzeldorf)

Atel (Hetzeldorf) is a larger village in Southern Transilvania with a beautiful fortified church. The church is undergoing renovations and is closed to the public but the hills surrounding the village were certainly open and welcoming today, as we took a short hike to enjoy nature. In case you’d like to visit the place yourself, here’s a link to the spots we saw.

We’d come to get a bit of fresh air and as we were walking around with Sophie, exploring the flowers and the bugs and the birds and listening to the various sounds the latter two made, we spotted a building up on the hill, looking somewhat deserted. We decided to pay a visit and see what it was. It turned out to be the somewhat deserted church of the Saxon cemetery which overlooks the village.

If you don’t know the story of the Saxons of Transilvania, you need to read this. It tells only part of the story and obviously none of the heartache of the departure from their places of birth, but the deserted graves, tilting and knocked over by time, including the cobwebs on the church door, tell the story of a people that are no more, with only remnants here and there. These people built these magnificent structures and sturdy homes that have stood the test of time and now they are here no longer. Atel is only one of the many, many Saxon villages spread throughout Transilvania but for some reason, seeing all those graves in disarray made me realize how few Saxons there are left and what good work they’ve done over the many hundreds of years they were here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and as usual, if you’re interested in using any of them, please see my licensing terms.