This NPR story about corruption in Romania broke my heart today. This part of it (and I didn't listen or read to the end, can't bear it):
[...] A Corruption-Linked Tragedy
In their small Bucharest flat in a big, drab Soviet-era apartment complex, Elena and Nansi Lungu look at photos of their 2-year-old son, Sebastian, who is asleep in the next room.
During Elena's pregnancy, she bribed the gynecologist and the nurses, which is a common practice. It was a normal, healthy pregnancy. But on delivery day during the final stage of labor, Elena says she was left alone for long stretches. Then Elena's main nurse suddenly told her she was done with her shift — and left.
"Imagine a nurse who told me she could see the head of the baby but she must go home because her shift is finished — 'My time, it's over,' " Elena says.
When another nurse finally showed up — some 45 minutes later — Elena says that nurse was in a panic about what she saw: The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around the baby's head several times, restricting the oxygen flow.
After 25 minutes, Sebastian was born — but he was nearly dead.
"He didn't scream; he didn't move. He was blue. We try to accept that he will never be like a normal child, healthy. But with every step, we have to improve, a little bit, his life," Elena says.
Each day is a struggle, she says. At 2 years of age, Sebastian can't crawl, can't sit or hold up his head; he doesn't talk.
"We feed him through a tube inserted directly into his stomach and give him food via a syringe," she says.
Now, the Lungus are suing the Romanian Health Ministry and the hospital for criminal negligence and grievous bodily harm, charging that a culture of corruption in Romania has bred incompetence in the health system. [...]
It has reminded me of my father. Of how a nurse at the Obukhiv hospital allowed him to leave just because she didn't know there was someone out there looking for him. An elderly man who had spent two nights at a bus stop without food or water, and who couldn't have looked healthy then, even though he was able to identify himself. And she yelled at my mother when she was trying to justify her actions. Yelled at my mother after my father's body had just been found in a nearby forest. I'm glad I don't know the nurse's name, I don't want to know it, it's safer that way.
It has also reminded me of a nurse at a centrally-located Kyiv hospital, where my father was being treated following his fourth stroke, some seven months before his death. I've just re-read my post about it - here - and I don't have it in me to re-post it here.
Anyway. This kind of attitude does have a lot to do with poverty, corruption, impunity. They aren't getting paid enough, they expect to be bribed, they act so savagely because they know they can get away with it. And we do allow them to get away with it. We pay them because that's the only way to get the most basic things done - and, in many cases, the most basic things help keep someone alive, no less, and, under certain circumstances, there is no time to think whether paying someone who is supposed to be paid by the state is right or wrong. And once something is being done, we feel grateful, and, again, we pay them. In some cases, we may consider it charity. And we rarely press charges - because it is futile.
I hope the Romanian couple will win that lawsuit. And I admire them for having the strength to fight.
But I still do not understand why our hospitals are filled with cruel people. Is it because the majority of us are cruel, and there's nothing extraordinary about being cruel? Or is it because too many of those who aren't cruel - which seems like a prerequisite for becoming a health care professional - have moved elsewhere a long time ago: to other countries, to private hospitals, to other jobs? I know it's not good thinking this way, and normally I hate to generalize, but when I do allow myself to think about it long enough, these two are the only explanations I can come up with.