1 Medical Care in Romania Comes at an Extra Cost 3/09 (background story)
March 9, 2009 – The New York Times
Medical Care in Romania Comes at an Extra Cost
by Dan Bilefsky
Bucharest, Romania — Alina Lungu, 30, said she did everything necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy in Romania: she ate organic food, swam daily and bribed her gynecologist with an extra $255 in cash, paid in monthly installments handed over discreetly in white envelopes. She paid a nurse about $32 extra to guarantee an epidural and even gave about $13 to the orderly to make sure he did not drop the stretcher. But on the day of her delivery, she said, her gynecologist never arrived. Twelve hours into labor, she was left alone in her room for an hour. A doctor finally appeared and found that the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her baby’s neck and had nearly suffocated him. He was born blind and deaf and is severely brain damaged.
Now, Alina and her husband, Ionut, despair that the bribes they paid were not enough to prevent the negligence that they say harmed their son, Sebastian. “Doctors are so used to getting bribes in Romania that you now have to pay more in order to even get their attention,” she said.
Romania, a poor Balkan country of 22 million that joined the European Union two years ago, is struggling to shed a culture of corruption that was honed during decades of Communism, when Romanians endured long lines just to get basics like eggs and milk and used bribes to acquire scarce products and services. Alarm is growing in Brussels that Romania and other recent entrants to the European Union are undermining the bloc’s rule of law. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, published a damning report last month criticizing Romania for backtracking on judicial changes necessary to fight corruption. And Transparency International, the Berlin-based anticorruption watchdog, ranked Romania as the second most corrupt country in the 27-member European Union last year, behind neighboring Bulgaria.
Those who have faced corruption allegations in recent years have included a former prime minister, more than 1,100 doctors and teachers, 170 police officers and 3 generals, according to Romanian anticorruption investigators. Romanians say it is the everyday graft and bribery that blights their lives, and nowhere are the abuses more glaring than in the socialized health care system. Interviews with doctors, patients and ethicists suggest that the culture of bribery has infected every level of the system, sometimes leaving patients desperate. One doctor said a patient recently offered him a free shopping trip to Dubai, an offer he declined.
The issue of health care corruption gained national attention in January when a 63-year-old man, Mihai Constantinescu, died of a heart attack in the waiting room of a hospital in Slatina, in southern Romania. Mihaela Ionita, the nurse who wheeled him from room to room trying to get a doctor to treat him, said in an interview that she believed he had been refused care “because he appeared poor and could not afford a bribe.” The hospital said Mr. Constantinescu had not seemed an emergency case. Dr. Vasile Astarastoae, a biomedical ethicist who is president of the Romanian College of Physicians, which represents 47,000 doctors, blamed a pitifully low average monthly wage of about $510 for doctors for the bribe-taking. “Patients don’t want to go to a doctor who is distracted thinking, ‘How will I feed my kids or pay the rent?’ ” Dr. Astarastoae said. “So there is a conspiracy between the doctor and the patient to pay a bribe.”
He said that unlike in many Western countries, where doctors are respected and handsomely rewarded for years of hard study, the medical profession here had been denigrated under Communist leaders who made workers in factories the country’s heroes. A 2005 study conducted by the World Bank for the Romanian Ministry of Health concluded that so-called informal payments amounted to $360 million annually. When an illness requires hospitalization, patients typically pay bribes equivalent to three-quarters of a family’s monthly income, the study showed. Some doctors say that the bribery culture is so endemic that when they refuse bribes, some patients become distraught and mistakenly conclude it is a sign that their illnesses are incurable.
Doctors and patients say the bribery follows a set of unwritten rules. The cost of bribes depends on the treatment, ranging from $127 for a straightforward appendix-removal operation to up to more than $6,370 for brain surgery. The suggested bribery prices are passed on by word of mouth, and are publicized on blogs and Web sites. Victor Alistar, director of Transparency International’s Romanian branch, said public hospitals routinely exchanged “supplementary payment” lists to ensure that they had the same rates. Dr. Adela Salceanu, a psychiatrist and antibribery advocate, recalled that one friend, a 42-year-old lawyer, recently broke two legs in a basketball game and was taken to a hospital for surgery. When he did not offer money to the orthopedic surgeon on duty, his procedure was postponed for a week; he finally received treatment, but only after paying the doctor an extra $510.
Mugur Ciumageanu, a psychiatrist who has practiced in public hospitals in Bucharest, said that when he was a young doctor, a senior physician forbade him to talk with patients for three months. She explained that by spending more time with patients than she was, and appearing more caring, he was putting a dent in her bribery earnings. Marilena Tiron, 26, a recent graduate of a medical school in Bucharest, said the issue of bribery did not come up in her optional medical ethics class at the University of Bucharest’s Medical School “since the teachers were taking bribes themselves.” Dr. Astarastoae, of the Romanian College of Physicians, acknowledged that bribery needed to be rooted out. He said that the college had the power to revoke the licenses of doctors implicated in a bribe but added that few patients were willing to identify their doctors for fear they could be shunned by other doctors.
The Ministry of Health has taken some steps to try to change the culture of bribery. It recently set up a free phone line for patients to report abuses. Within an hour, it was jammed with calls. Hospitals here are plastered with antibribery posters. But Liviu Manaila, Romania’s secretary of state for health, said in an interview that the culture would not change fundamentally until doctors’ pay increased. While he said the government’s budget was too strained to raise wages, he proposed revamping Romania’s socialized medical system so that patients took on a greater burden of the costs. He said their payments could be used to pay doctors higher fees.
Ms. Lungu, Sebastian’s mother, said that whatever changes were made, they should start now, before other children suffer like her son, who will probably spend his life in a vegetative state. “The problem is that all this black money absolves doctors of their moral responsibility toward their patients,” she said. “It has got to be stopped.”
1 April 2009 – Mediafax.ro
Civil Code Sub-Committee Bans Homosexual Couples From Adopting Kids
Bucharest – The Romanian MPs in the Civil Code sub-committee decided Wednesday that two people of the same sex cannot adopt a child, and adoption can only be performed by a couple formed of a man and a woman. According to an amendment formulated by democrat liberal senator Iulian Urban, to article 479, "two people of the same sex cannot adopt a child together".
Sub-committee president Daniel Buda said at the end of the meeting that the topic is "extremely sensitive" given the matter in question refers to homosexual relations and the MPs practically wanted to ban adoption in such a situation. The subcommittee debating the Civil Code concluded works for Wednesday and will reconvene Thursday at 0730 GMT.
23 May 2009 – Realitatea.Net
Anti-gay march draws some scores of people in Bucharest, before pro-homosexual one
Sambata – The participants met around 11 a.m. nearby the Romanian Athenaeum, next to several older persons who themselves are against homosexuality. "Romanians, wake up! Sexual perversions are contagious mental diseases" or "Romanians, stop the homosexual epidemic! It is more dangerous than the flue" are just some of the messages written on the placards. The participants also chorus "Romania is not Sodom."
We have nothing against homosexuals, but it bothers us so see that they make public their options and attitudes that should remain private, one of the participants at the march told NewsIn. The organizers of the normality march said they will not try to sabotage the march of sexual minorities that will take place this afternoon at 5 p.m, and added they are just trying to express their points of view through this action, said Alexandru Nastase, the leader of Noua Dreapta Bucharest. This is the fourth year in a row when such a march is organized.
According to a poll carried out by Gallup Organization Romania in June-July last year, homosexuality is seen as a bad thing by 68 percent of the Romanians. About 36 percent of them deem homosexual relations should be sanctioned, through prohibiting some rights. The same poll indicates that 56 percent of the Romanians say homosexuals should not be allowed to organize public events and 36 percent of them wish they would stop showing on television. After several years of contentions, the Romanian government abrogated in June 2001 the law regarding discriminatory sanctions for homosexuals, following pressures from the European Council.
On the other hand, the ACCEPT organization which organizes the march of sexual minorities, said that the aim of this action is to attract attention over the rights of the LGBT community (lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transgender). The members want to advert to the fact that there is no equality for all the citizens in Romania, and also to stretch the visibility of the LGBT community, the spokesman of ACCEPT Bogdan Istrate told NewsIn. According to ACCEPT, one of the major problems of the sexual minorities in Romania is that they cannot close civil partnerships to indicate legally that two persons of the same sex can cohabit and have similar rights as married couples.
May 26, 2009 – IGLHRC
Romania: Romanian version of the Yogyakarta Principles launched in Bucharest
A Romanian version of the Yogyakarta Principles was launched in Bucharest on May 22, 2009. The launch and accompanying discussion was organized by ACCEPT Romania, a human rights group promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT people, the Romanian National Council on Combating Discrimination, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Romanian and foreign participants at the event included representatives from government institutions, including the Ministry of Interior and the Ombudsman, NGOs, and foreign embassies, including the Ambassadors of the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
Human rights lawyer Iustina Ionescu moderated the discussion, which featured a range of speakers from throughout Europe. Romanita Iordache, vice-president of ACCEPT, explained the legal importance of the Yogyakarta Principles, and Asztalos Csaba, President of the National Council for Combating Discrimination, described the work of the Council to combat homophobia in Romania. Human Rights Watch’s Boris Dittrich noted that, if Romania adopts a current draft law to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions from other EU-countries, then international companies that protect their employees from discrimination would hesitate to invest in Romania. Michael Cashman, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the United Kingdom and chair of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, emphasized that religious beliefs should be kept private and should not interfere with state affairs. Michel Teychenne, MEP for France, addressed the importance of political leadership in combating prejudice toward LGBT people.
Several speakers said they would use the Principles as a benchmark to assess whether authorities adequately respect and protect human rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The event was part of the 2009 Gay Fest, a weeklong LGBT festival held for the fifth consecutive year. A copy of the Romanian version of the Yogyakarta Principles can be downloaded here; other languages are available at www.yogyakartaprinciples.org
July 30, 2009- IGLHRC
Romania: Discriminatory Partnership and Adoption Provisions in New Civil Code
On June 22, 2009 the executive government of Romania assumed responsibility for the new civil and criminal codes. Then, on July 20, 2009, Romanian President Traian Basescu signed decrees promulgating these codes. In the Civil Code, Articles 277, 258, 259, and 462 prevent same-sex couples and other non-traditional families from enjoying their rights to nondiscrimination, freedom of movement, and privacy under international and European law and policy.
On July 30, 2009, ACCEPT, IGLHRC, and ILGA-Europe sent a letter to President Basescu expressing disappointment with the new laws and calling on him to support any efforts to repeal them and to ensure nondiscrimination for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Despite the inclusion of Article 30 in the new Civil Code, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, these provisions are clearly discriminatory and deny the existence of LGBT and non-traditional heterosexual families, increasing social stigma and discrimination against them.
Summary of new partnership and adoption provisions
* Article 277 on the interdiction or equating of forms of living together with marriage prohibits same-sex marriage, prohibits recognition of same sex marriage performed abroad, and prohibits recognition of all civil partnerships regardless of gender.
* Article 462 on simultaneous adoption prohibits two unmarried persons from adopting a child simultaneously or one after the other, and also specifically indicates that this includes same sex couples.
* Article 258 on family defines spouses as being a man and a woman united through marriage and defines family as being based on marriage between spouses.
* Article 259 on marriage defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and makes marriage a right.
Download an English translation of these provisions here or the original in Romanian here.
On April 22, 2009, ACCEPT and IGLHRC sent a letter to the Romanian executive government responding to the then-proposed amendment to the civil law that would prohibit same-sex adoption. For more information click here.
August 28, 2009 – PinkNews
Bucharest crowd boo Madonna’s defence of gays and Roma
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Romanian fans of singer Madonna showed their displeasure during a concert yesterday when she condemned discrimination against Roma people and gays. The 51-year-old American performer is currently on tour.
During her concert in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, she said: "We don’t believe in discrimination against anyone. We believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone…right? Gypsies, homosexuals, people who are different — everyone is equal and should be treated with respect, OK? Let’s not forget that." There were loud boos from the crowd as well as some cheering.
Romania joined the EU in 2007, but it remains socially conservative. A poll conducted last year found 68% of Romanians in the poll thought homosexuality is a ‘bad choice’ and 36% think punitive measures should be taken against gays, from fines to jail. Nearly half of the 1,200 respondents said they would not want contact with someone living with HIV or AIDS. Two thirds said they would be uncomfortable with a gay neighbour.
30% think children with AIDS should be segregated in school. Romania was one of the last European countries to decriminalise homosexuality, in 1996, and a further law banning "manifestations of homosexuality" was finally repealed in 2001. In 2002 the age of consent was equalised at 15.
Roma people, sometimes called Gypsies, suffer violence and discrimination across Europe, including incidents in Italy. A EU Fundamental Rights Agency report on the Roma revealed a bleak picture for the estimated 12 million Roma in the EU. "Roma reported the highest overall levels of discrimination across all areas surveyed. 66-92% of Roma (depending on the country) did not report their most recent experience of discrimination to any competent authority.
"65-100% of the Roma respondents reported lack of confidence in law enforcement and justice structures."
23 May 2010 – EuroNews
Romanian pride tries to break gay taboos
Bucharest has held its sixth gay pride attracting about 350 people who came to party and to protest against homophobia. Romania decriminalised homosexuality several years ago but the question remains largely taboo. 11 countries’ embassies publicly backed the latest edition of the GayFest – the British ambassador addressed the crowd – but hardly any Romanian politicians took part. Many in the country share the Orthodox Christian Church’s anti-gay stance.
“I’m a pensioner and I witnessed much worse times in the past than now,” said one man dressed in drag. “I hope we’ll manage all this.” A young woman said: “This marginalised and discriminated community must show that it exists, and people slowly have to accept it.”
Security was tight; previous events have seen anti-gay demonstrations and clashes between the two groups. This year about 150 far right demonstrators rallied in the city centre protesting against homosexuality. Gay prides have encountered several problems in eastern European countries. Last week a small demonstration in Belarus was broken up by police. In Serbia a march was cancelled last year in the face of violent threats.
April 13, 2011 – 365Gay.com
Poll: Many Romanian teens rampantly intolerant of gays
by The Associated Press
(Bucharest, Romania) Teenagers in Romania are widely intolerant of gays and people with AIDS, according to a new poll that called the results “extremely worrisome.” The findings published late Tuesday came from a poll paid for by the Soros Foundation and conducted in November. The report says the results show a large number of Romanian teenagers could be described as racist and anti-Semitic. Homosexuals were rated as the least preferred neighbors, with three-quarters of those questioned saying they would not want gays living next door. That was followed by Gypsies and people with AIDS, which some two-thirds of respondents would not like to have as neighbors.
Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001 but prejudice remains, with the dominant Romanian Orthodox Church strongly opposing homosexuality. In 2007, police used tear gas and clashed with more than 100 protesters who attacked an annual gay rights parade with stones and fireworks. The poll also showed that 42 percent are opposed to having a Muslim neighbor, and 34 percent opposed to a Jewish neighbor.
The findings showed that while children from more educated families were generally less intolerant, they were more intolerant of Gypsies, or Roma. In Romania, home to an estimated 1.5 million Roma, there is widespread prejudice against the minority. About 5,860 students aged 14 to 18 were questioned and the poll had a 2 percent margin of error. George Soros’ Open Society Foundations have put almost $150 million (euro110 million) into groups helping Romas.