15 years after the death of Mr. Lăzărescu, the Romanian health system is still sick — The Calvert Journal

An estimated 43,000 doctors left the country over the next decade, seeking better pay and working conditions in the UK, France and other more prosperous European countries. The Eurozone crisis that followed the global recession in 2008 accelerated this mass exodus, eventually leading to 26,000 medical positions going unfilled nationwide. Despite a recent effort to retain healthcare professionals by doubling salaries in the sector, Romania has ranked in the bottom four of the European Healthcare Consumer Index, ranking EU member states every year from 2015 to 2019. According to the 2019 ranking of countries health systems by performance, the country is 99th in the world, behind Nauru and Benin.

However, not everyone in Romania had to suffer like Lăzărescu. Unofficially, those with the means have always been able to somehow circumvent the country’s supposedly egalitarian universal healthcare system. A culture of bribing doctors for better care, which dates back to Ceaușescu’s “golden age”, still clings. And nearly a decade after a controversial proposal to fully privatize the health sector in 2011, which led to large-scale protests and the eventual resignation of Prime Minister Emil Boc, less extreme reforms were introduced in early 2019. The private health insurance market has since been allowed to grow significantly, with a major increase in the number of people, mostly middle and high income earners, taking out private policies. For the rest of the country’s aging population, however, the outlook is bleak.

Helen D. Jessen