Between two Worlds – The divided Health Care System in Romania (Guest post by Ioana Vasiloiu)

It’s been more than 25 years since communism became history in Romania. But the reality is that the country needed a lot of time to adjust to the new economy, especially after we became a EU member in 2007. Fortunately, there have been many positive developments lately, which also apply to our health care system.

Everybody in Romania knows that you should try to avoid any encounter with the public health care system. It’s true that we have good doctors, but many of them decide to leave the country and seek work abroad. That’s mainly because their educational background gives them the opportunity to find a job outside Romania which pays according to their responsibility. Plus, the Western European hospitals provide better medical equipment than we have here.

On the other hand, the private health care system has strongly improved and it is well established in all the big cities in our country. Most of the big companies provide their employees with private medical insurance, so they are not forced to go to public hospitals which are financed through taxes.

Comparing the two sectors – the public and the private one – I would base my opinion on my personal experience. Fortunately, I did not have to spend too much time in hospitals; But I happened to stay in a public hospital for one week, when I was younger, and then three years ago I experienced a regular check in a private clinic. With these two very different experiences in mind, I can try to provide a comparison: In 2004, when I was 13 years old, I had my appendix removed. I was obligated to go to the closest hospital to my home, which was in a small town, and I had to spend an entire week there. For the first three days, I had to share the room with the boys, because the girls’ room was already full. So this is the first bad experience with the public sector – it was too crowded.

Later, when one of the girls left the hospital, they moved me from the boys’ room. But guess what? They did not change the bed sheets. Luckily, there was a friend of mine and she told me about it. So my mother brought our own bed sheets from home. This example shows that hygiene was another problem.

In addition, the surgery was supposed to be free of charge, since I was under 18 years old, but nobody would have even looked at me, if my parents did not give them money.

Eight years later, I had a very different first experience with the private health care system in Bucharest. I wanted to do a regular check and decided to give the most modern clinic a try.. What I found really interesting and different about it was that after my website registration, somebody called me to confirm my appointment. After that, I received an email with the appointment and the name of the doctor who was going to see me. Of course I googled him and checked for reviews. Everything was fine so I felt confident about the appointment. One day before my appointment, I also received a text message as a reminder. The entire communication process was very professional and transparent.

When I got to the clinic, I was impressed by the look of the place, but even more important, everybody was nice and helpful. I was also very pleased by the service and by the medical equipment which seemed a latest generation one. And then it hit me: I am their customer and they treat me as such. It’s impossible to find such behaviour in a public hospital, when everybody acts like you completely depend on them and they do not need you at all.

I received the results of the check-up on the spot, and left being very impressed.And it got even better when I checked my messages: I had an email from them asking for feedback. So I said to myself that this was proper marketing and they really knew how to use it. I was surprised because that was the first time I noticed marketing being used in health care system. But it was this moment that I understood how a different approach makes a huge difference between the public and the private health care system.

Because of these different approaches and the great difference regarding the quality of the services, I believe the entire health care system in Romania will be dominated by the private sector in the near future. This is already happening with dental practices and everybody is leased with it. If public sector does not reform quickly, there won’t be any doctors left bofore long – and no patients either.

Ioana Vasiloiu has a Master’s degree in International Relations gained in Bucharest – Romania, and also studied International Marketing in Poland. She has been working as a Social Media Coordinator for two years now and is enthusiastic about new developments in marketing.