Moving Forward: A Collective Lesson

On October 30th 2015, Romania witnessed one of its most horrible tragedy in the past 20 years. A fire ignited inside the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, and a few seconds later the whole club, in which over 400 people were enjoying a rock concert, was up in flames.

64 people died and dozens were injured and treated in Romania, filled with hospital infections and after public pressure, some of them were sent to several hospitals all over Europe. Some of them are better now, but they will carry the weight of this fateful event for their whole lives, within their minds and bodies.

At that time, society tried to make sense of what happened, the whole country was in national mourning, and over 100,000 people took to the streets to scream that change was needed. No more.

A national tragedy had happened because the rules weren’t applied. The club didn’t have authorization from the fire department for the fire show used in the concert.

The situation wasn’t handled in the most efficient way either. The fire department, Ministry of Health and several hospital directors lied on TV, saying that everything was under control and we, as a country, are able to handle this. In truth, all over social media, families of the victims and doctors were asking for help because the hospitals lacked basic supplies such as sterile bandage and necessary drugs. At some point, the authorities decided that it was the time to call for help.

The prime minister at that time, Victor Ponta, resigned after the protest and much public pressure. He is currently under investigation for more than two criminal cases, beside the fact that he was stripped of his PhD degree due to plagiarism. The Minister of Health at that time, Nicolae Banicioiu, stated that our medical system could handle 150 wounded people, and that they had everything under control. In reality, the medical system was overwhelmed by the large number of patients, exceeded by the lack of technology and poor conditions at Romanian hospitals. Some people died because the ministry of health refused to declare emergency and call for help within the EU.

A year has passed since the tragic accident. Is Romania better today? Here are some of the adjustments that have been made.

The Government was replaced by a Government of Technocrats on account of the public pressure expressing distrust in the political class.

The Technocrat Government was the only logical move to make: to offer positions of power to professionals. Most of the parties are corrupted, most of the politicians are under investigation in multiple criminal cases. Dacian Ciolos, the first technocrat prime minister, has chosen a cabinet composed of 23% women, all of the ministers are technical experts. The current government has made considerable efforts and improvements in the right direction. The upcoming parliamentary election will play a huge role in the future of our country. PSD lists (one of the most popular and corrupt party) for the December 11th elections include dozens of candidates convicted of a crime, or in trial, from criminal charges to incompatibility, and conflicts of interest.

A series of politicians had their PhD title stripped, including Victor Ponta (former Prime Minister) and Gabriel Oprea (former Minister of Interns).

We found out that the new modern unit for burn victims was not able to function, even though it was inaugurated in April 2015 at a cost of almost 9 millions Euros.

When the tragedy happened, it couldn’t be used for the victims from Colectiv. Apart from that, there is the acquisition of a barometric chamber amounting to 760,000 Euros (25% of the medical facilities’ budget ) that can’t be used for burn patients and was the most expensive equipment acquired. The device is actually specialised in “anti-aging treatments” and was an optional choice.

After the Colectiv fire, many doctors courageously reported various irregularities within the medical system.

11 days had passed since the tragedy when one of the doctors at the Burns Hospital had offered for publication a video in which 4-5 larvae were crawling on a patient in a burn area. The patient died, from “other causes” the doctors declared. The Minister of Health, Vlad Voiculescu, concluded that it was a management and infrastructure problem, and will introduce necessary measures like: hospital relocation, interim measures such as inspections, audits, fines, helping the hospital with any investment needed, professionalizing management, help point they are offering already.

An overwhelming national problem has come to the public attention, the nosocomial infections.

In the past 23 years, Romania has had the highest rate of increase in microbial resistance on the whole continent. 70% of these infections are caused by the Clostridium Difficile, 027 ribotype, one of the most aggressive type that has a rate of mortality around 50-60%, according to the actual Ministry of Health. In the Diagnosis and Treatment Guide ICD (Ministry of Health) it is stated that all the hospitals within the country are affected by this germ. The problem lies not only in numbers, but also in the severity of these infections.

Every hospitals in Romania had received new guidelines for diagnosis and treatment for three types of resistant bacteria, and a user guide of antibiotics in surgery. Most of the recommended measures are related to hygiene, usage of quality disinfectants and disposable materials.

We found out about the Hexi Pharma experiment.

Hexi Pharma is a pharmaceutical company that supplied over 300 hospitals in multiple counties of Romania with a diluted formula of disinfectants, from 3 to 9 times lower than what was listed on the label (according to tolo.ro investigation). These products have been used in both operating rooms and intensive care. Doctors have concluded that the usage of disinfectants with low concentration of active substances is one of the causes of the increasing number of nosocomial infections, together with the increased consumption of antibiotics. The Romanian state had never tested any of the products used nor had a procedure for it at that time.

We passed a law forbidding smoking in public closed spaces. The government has defined the term public closed space as a space with a roof, bounded by at least two walls.

To sum it up, we discovered that we’re not prepared for any catastrophe and hopefully, the authorities are working towards adjusting these life and death irregularities.

The Minister of Health, Vlad Voiculescu has recently stated that: “Fundamental changes in the entire system can not be done in a few months. We are trying to do it at the managerial level of the hospital, you will see in the days immediately following, an emergency decree that tries to make the management of the hospital somewhat independent of political will. For example: We have defined a very clear incompatibility, if you are a member of a party or you’re in control bodies, whatever that control body or party.”

He also concluded that mistakes are made because the procedures are not followed by the book. It happened with Colectiv, with Hexi Pharma, and with nosocomial infections.

The very first step towards healing is admitting the problem. I believe Romania is still healing at the moment. We need vast improvements in the entire medical system so all the citizens have access to proper treatment in any given situation. The Colectiv case appears as a mutual lesson we have to learn: It is important to do our jobs well, to be professional and follow the procedures. This seemingly ordinary act could save lives.

About Ioana Miron

Ioana grew up in Bucharest, Romania and recently finished her master’s degree in journalism, international cooperation and humanitarian aid from the National School of Political Science and Public Administration. She’s an extremely intelligent, motivated, self-reliant and creative young woman always on the prowl for injustice to expose. Ioana’s impressive thirst for knowledge is only surpassed by her kind and generous heart.

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