Romania is a country of around 20 million people located in Southeastern Europe. Since the fall of communism in 1989, the country has transitioned to a democracy with more personal freedoms and a better economic outlook. Economic trends have improved since Romania joined the European Union in 2007. Even though Romania has enjoyed high levels of growth in recent decades, it remains plagued by corruption and the emigration of skilled professionals to other European nations. These issues create problems for healthcare in Romania. Here are five facts about healthcare in Romania.
5 Facts About Healthcare in Romania
- Healthcare in Romania ranks last in Europe. Romania regularly falls around last place in the European Health Consumer Index. It has an underfunded and inefficient system, which consistently fails to provide quality care. Worse than being inadequate, Romanian hospitals are often dangerous. Poorly trained staff often do not follow proper medical procedures and expose patients to unsanitary conditions. In a maternity ward in 2018, an antibiotic-resistant superbug infected 39 babies.
- The government plays a large role in the failures of healthcare in Romania. Romania has a program of universal health insurance. There is a mandatory payroll tax which the country uses to provide coverage to the entire population. Romania consistently spends around 4% of its GDP on healthcare, which is one of the lowest rates in the E.U. In addition to health insurance, the government also operates a majority of the hospitals in the country, many of which are aging and chronically underfunded. The country has built very few new hospitals since the end of communism. While Romania has opened the door to private insurance and hospitals over the past few decades, they have yet to take off.
- Low salaries are driving corruption. Despite having universal health coverage in practice, many Romanians end up having to pay out of pocket to get quality care. Underpaid hospital staff usually receive bribes to get their attention. This has created a system where the wealthy patients receive better treatment, while those unable to pay experience neglect. This culture of bribery has become a huge problem for many Romanian hospitals.
- There is a shortage of doctors in Romania. Romania’s entrance to the E.U. allowed more than 15,000 doctors to leave the country in search of jobs with better pay in other European countries. There is an acute shortage of healthcare professionals in the country, with around 30% of positions unfilled. The situation is worse in rural areas where salaries are lower and there is less oversight. Medical graduates and skilled doctors may continue to leave the country as long as hospitals have unfavorable working conditions.
- Nonprofits are filling in the gaps in healthcare in Romania. Even though the Romanian government has been unable to improve healthcare infrastructure, nonprofits are taking important action. The Give Life Association is one such group, having already built a state-of-the-art leukemia diagnosis lab and facilities to triple Romania’s organ transplant capacity. The Give Life Association is a private organization that raises funds to build important public medical infrastructure. Its current project is a major new hospital in Bucharest, Romania. The cause has drawn widespread attention in Romania, raising over $30 million from 300,000 people and 4,000 companies. The organization estimates that it will complete the new hospital in 2021.
Ending corruption would go a long way to improving the quality of healthcare in Romania. Recently, there have been signs that the government understands this and is willing to take meaningful action to end bribes and raise salaries for doctors. As a whole, medical salaries have been growing much quicker than the national average. There are hopes that higher wages will reduce the impact of bribes and entice skilled doctors to stay in the country. It will be a long process to correct the deeply flawed healthcare system in Romania. However, progress is possible if the government and the private sector work together toward reform.
– Jack McMahon