Recent developments have given the Romanian people much to celebrate. Last week, the European Parliament elections saw voter participation exceed 50%, a resounding rejection of the corruption-fueled party in power, the Social Democrats Party (PSD). It also showed resounding support for the Romanian President’s referendum, which aimed to put the brakes on the government’s attempt to loosen corruption laws so that high-level officials could be let off scot-free.
These victories were followed one day later by a Romanian Supreme Court decision to jail Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the PSD and widely seen as the most powerful man in Romania, for abuse of power. Happily, not even an earlier letter from US president Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani pressing for leniency in anti-corruption measures had an impact.
Yet this is only the beginning. Many challenges remain for the people of Romania, far too many of which are exacerbated by corruption.
To give you a sense of how prevalent corruption is in Romania, look no further than its impact on women trying to access health care. If you are a mother-to-be in Romania, you will, in all likelihood, have to pay a bribe for maternity care. And not just one bribe. You may have to compete. If your bribe isn’t high enough, someone else will get that care and you won’t.
You weigh up the costs. Sometimes, it’s more cost effective to choose private health care, only because, as the bribes accrue in the public health care system, the costs become comparable. Given that you often don’t have the funds yourself – Romania has one of the highest poverty rates in Europe – you may need to consider a loan shark, which opens up a whole other world of pain.
If you choose to go down the public health care route, and you don’t pay a bribe, you risk the health of your newborn. Accounts of bribery that were shocking 10 years ago are still commonplace32811-8.pdf) today. If you don’t have the funds to supplement your care, you won’t be given the full complement of services. It is not unheard of for a woman from a rural community to endure child birth without an epidural – if she wants one – simply because she doesn’t have the money to pay for it.
While corruption in healthcare impacts everyone, given the nature of women’s healthcare needs, they are more susceptible to its impact – and are frequently the most exploited. And they often don’t have the information they need to avoid being manipulated.
All of this happening under the watchful, albeit deeply troubled, eye of the European Union.