It looked and sounded like a row over a hospital.
A public disagreement between the Bucharest mayor, the health minister and a non-governmental organization about a children’s cancer hospital has been peppered with accusations, reproaches and very vulgar language.
But the feud has also exposed two different mentalities.
The mayor and the minister represent the state which has traditionally been in charge of funding, building and running public hospitals, while on the other side is a relatively new idea_ a private initiative testing an innovative citizen-based approach to public health.
Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea first voiced her disapproval about the pediatric cancer hospital on Facebook on Oct. 22, sharing a post belittling the project in vulgar and scatological language.
The first children’s cancer hospital in the country is being built with private funds. Since 2015, some 260,000 people and 1,700 companies have contributed to the project which has raised 26 million euros.
The row has also shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the lack of investment in public hospitals and other facilities and infrastructure in recent years, something the government has been criticized for.
The two project initiators accused the health minister Sorina Pintea of intimidating them and of saying the money they raised should be handed to the state. They said they objected to Firea’s reaction, particularly the language used in the post she shared.
The mayor robustly defended her position, and even when she conceded that the language was inappropriate, she insisted that, in essence, she was right.
Firea pointed out that the city hall had provided the land, that she (or the city hall) had also built hospitals. She added that she believed someone was behind the attacks on her and someone (other than the sick children) with political ambitions was going to benefit from the project.
Non-governmental children’s organization Dăruiește Viață initiated the project. The foundations and some of the building have already gone up in the grounds of the Marie Curie children’s Hospital in south Bucharest.
From 2018 to 2019, Marie Curie unsuccessfully applied to the health ministry for support for X-ray equipment, intensive therapy and operating rooms. Project initiator Carmen Uscatu said the ministry has World Bank programs that help pay for medical equipment.
Uscatu and co-initiator Oana Gheorghiu accused the health ministry of not supporting the project and of putting pressure on them. Pintea denied intimidating them, and argued that it wasn’t the ministry’s job to help private foundations, saying Marie Curie should have applied on their behalf.
Universul.net reported that Pintea lied about there not being a formal request for equipment, citing requests made for X-ray and other equipment in April 2018, April 2019 and a reminder in July.
Firea continued her attacks on the project managers on Wednesday evening saying: “What is the integrity of these people, who boast they have donations from private and business people?”
Uscatu replied: “It’s because of these incompetent people that we don’t have (enough) medicine and doctors and nurses” have gone to work abroad “We will continue this project.”