14 Feb 2009

In Romania, bribery is a health problem

Alina Lungu, 30, says she did everything necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy in Romania: She ate organic food, swam daily and bribed her gynaecologist with an extra €200 in cash, paid in monthly increments of €25 handed over discreetly in white envelopes.

Another bribe of €25, or about $32, went to a nurse to guarantee an epidural. Even the orderly reaped an extra €10 to make sure he didn't drop her from the stretcher.

But on the day of her delivery, she says, her gynaecologist never arrived. Twelve hours into labor, she was left alone in her room for an hour. When a doctor appeared, the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her baby's head and had nearly suffocated him. He was blind and deaf and had suffered severe brain damage.

Now, Alina and her husband, Ionut, despair that if they had paid a larger bribe to the doctor, then Sebastian would perhaps be a healthy baby. "Doctors are so used to getting bribes in Romania that you now have to pay more in order to even get their attention," she said.

International Herald Tribunecotidianul.ro