BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Thousands of health care workers held a protest in Romania’s capital on Thursday, demanding higher wages, more staff, and better working conditions amid what they say are shortfalls that will lead to declining medical service standards.
Medical workers from across the country converged on central Bucharest, where they blew whistles, honked horns, and waved flags. Some brandished signs that read: “Only together we can succeed.”
The “Health Solidarity” Federation which organized the protest said it was concerned that a “decline in real wages driven by inflation” would lead to a “decrease in the quality of health care” in Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007.
“Previous wage increases have driven higher quality of health services, with wage spending proving to be the best investment for public health,” the federation said in a press release.
After Romania joined the EU, high levels of health care workers moved abroad seeking higher wages, which also strained the country’s medical sector.
In 2022, Romania, which has a population of about 19 million people, had one of the lowest healthcare spendings in the EU relative to GDP at 6.3%, compared to a bloc average of nearly 11%, according to the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat.
Romania’s Ministry of Health has not yet responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
“The absence of confidence and predictability, doubled by the decrease in the quality of professional life, favors the migration of health professionals,” the union said Thursday, adding there is a growing trend of state medical employees moving to the private sector.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Romania suffered several deadly hospital fires, which were partly blamed on outdated hospital infrastructure that was at times put under huge pressure amid high patient numbers.
The federation accused Romania’s government is forgetting the “heroism shown by health professionals” during the pandemic.
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