Romanian hospitals in crisis as emigration takes its toll

Gabriela Dumitru was supposed to retire years ago, but instead, she’s working longer hours than ever before. The 65-year-old is one half of a team of two doctors at the neonatology ward in Slobozia, a depressed town about two hours’ drive from Romania’s capital, Bucharest. Dumitru works three or four 24-hour shifts a week, catching an hour of sleep where possible on a sofa in a small box room. Her colleague is 75, and he officially retired 15 years ago. Between them, they do the work of four or five doctors, delivering approximately 1,200 babies a year and caring for those born with difficulties or disabilities. The neonatology ward in Slobozia is a small window into a larger crisis in Romania, where thousands of doctors and nurses have left the country for higher salaries in western Europe over the past decade. In a recent survey, more than 50% of Romanians said they were concerned about the impact of emigration on the country, the highest figure among all the countries studied. An estimated 3.4 million Romanians left the country in the decade after EU accession, according to a study by Romanian business leaders, while the ministry of health estimates that 43,000 doctors departed during the period.