2003 Visit Reports

Spring Survey Report

The Survey visit took place during April with the following observations :  - 12 split pipes in the flat, and the toilet cistern cracked and leaking, repaired during visit - Dining Hall inspected and new furniture in use - Kitchen not inspected, always locked when visited - Wards inspected, only limited signs of distress - Water to the flat not working, supply re-routed and repaired during visit - Front pillars inspected and in excellent condition - School sewage pipe was crushed, excavated and repaired during visit - Sceptic tank inspected, some signs of damage, lid needs repair - School inspected and found to be in excellent condition.

Subsequent to a meeting with Nurse Stoica and the new Director, a priority of work was agreed as follows : - Replace the main steam pipe from the Hospital to the Physiotherapy room.  This will require repairs and replacement of pipe held within about a 50 metre channel of concrete conduit located about 2 feet below the surface - Continue electrical work - Add a shelter and seating between the new pillars - Installation of either a new washing machine or tumble dryer - Service the oil burner.

During the visit, the following was also identified : - The Dentists Air Compressor was not working.  This was examined and repaired during the visit - A Steam Iron was required, this was purchased during the visit - There was a major shortage of sheets - A photocopier, computer and printer was required for the Hospital - Photography of the patients had now been banned by the new Director.

Finally the long winded task of purchasing a Company Car was completed.  See events for photos. It wasn't easy, and the administration and registration of the vehicle was a nightmare, but with Istvans' patience, it was achieved.  It means we now have transport of our own and will not be reliant on Istvan, or hiring a vehicle for routine tasks such has picking up materials or provisions.

Summer Visit Report

This summers visit had an eventful start.  The first team, with three new members, were caught up in the strikes at Heathrow airport.  Astoundingly, our flight was one of the very few which actually departed.  The team arrived safely at Bucharest airport, unfortunately the same could not be said for most of our luggage.  This was duly reported and we were assured they would be found and delivered to village.  True to their word, three days later all bags arrived safely.

On arrival we took the usual day to acclimatise and met the Head Nurse as soon as she arrived. There was some controversy as to what projects we were supposed to do, as the Financial Director had his own ideas.  It became clear the Head Nurse knew the priorities and we proceeded with her wishes.

The external steam heating pipeline was the priority followed by the new spin dryer, repairs to many appliances, a new shelter and loads of painting.

It quickly became evident that the pipes could not be addressed by manpower alone.  Provisional holes indicated  the pipes were in some places 7 feet below the surface rather than the expected 2 feet.  We would need to locate a digger.

To avoid time wasting, the mammoth task of painting the supporting walls and pillars around the hospital grounds as well as glossing the numerous doors was commenced.

After much negotiation a digger was procured eventually arrived after a couple of days.  The driver proved to be superb.  Despite difficult conditions and access points, he cleared the 100 metres of trenches, seemingly making the digger perform miracles, in about 5 hours.  We then had much work to do in clearing all the rubble clear off the concrete caps to expose the conduit and pipes.


Examination of the pipes showed them to be in poor condition, and rather than repair, it would all have to be replaced.  So, we were going to need welders.  Word got out, and we had a steady procession of contractors offering their services ranging from 15 million to 30 million Lei quotations.  Ironically one of the best quotes came from a local professional welder which we accepted.  We then had to find and procure 200 metres of  1 1/2" pipe, elbows and ducting, which took us several days.

While this was going on, the 'Severn Bridge' painting project continued, nothing was safe, outside benches were rebuilt and painted in bright colours, kerbstones given the Linda Barker look, and even the external concrete flower boxes went from dull grey to bright white !


Several plumbing and electrical jobs were addressed including repairing the industrial mixer and completely replacing two toilet pans.

Several PC's were again transported to Mini-1-Mai.  Most were used to replace obsolete and broken ones at Vulcan school, but one reasonable specification PC, with a Laser Printer was installed in the Head Nurses office in the hospital.  This is the first PC they have ever had.  Basic training was given to staff members on its use, and plans were in place to start creating a database of patient details. 

Money was now getting tight as the cost of the repairs to the pipes was way in excess of expectations.  After an evening / early morning in the village pub, two team members, Andy and Ian, both with flowing locks, suggested getting people to sponsor them to get their heads shaved.  After much 'cold texting' back to the UK throughout the night, £600 was pledged (including £100 if they stayed in Romania !), providing evidence was available within 24 hours.  The heads were shaved the next day, digital pictures taken and e-mailed back to the UK.  Work could now continue.


The pipe work was replaced by the welder, who proved to be an inspired choice.  He and his team spoke English, were cheerful and hard working, and most importantly, did an excellent job.  Unfortunately when the pressure was tested, no pressure was detected.  A radiator in the downstairs hallway was found to have blown.  It was fixed by the welder, but still no pressure.  It was then discovered further pipes had ruptured.  It was decided to extend the job and excavate a further stretch of road and replace that piping.  This was completed successfully, and the digger was again procured to refill the trenches.


A lorry was hired to pick up the spin dryer we had purchased.  Having returned with it from Bucharest, the first problem was getting it off the lorry, it weighed half a ton. After making ramps, it was eventually achieved, a very precarious operation.  Of course, it then proved too big to get into the hospital, so it had to be dismantled, moved bit by bit, then re-assembled.  This took about three days to complete, but everything worked well after.


A new shelter was then constructed between the pillars we had built last year.  Unfortunately we hit an unlikely problem....no wood.  It took several days to obtain what we required, but what a transformation when it was completed.  Plans are in place to build another next year. 


The other important work was that performed by the care assistants.  The patients on the whole were the same as last year, with a few new faces in staff and patients.  There had been an incident the week before we arrived where one of the patients had gone 'walkabout', and resulted in patients being kept in more than usual.

We were definitely flavour of the month with the Head Nurse for all the planned work, and we were given permission to do whatever we felt constructive with the patients.  Unfortunately, due to a breakdown in communications, plus the knock-on effect of the restrictions due to patients being kept in more, we did not get as many opportunities as hoped to work with the patients either inside or out causing obvious frustrations within our own team, although things did improve from the second week onwards.

We performed the usual make-up and shaving jobs which the patients love, plus much 'arty' type work, and drinks were given out each day.  All the patients appeared well cared for, although, as usual, a level of abuse was evident without the staff able to stop it.  A few of the 'regular' patients  seemed more mentally disturbed, but this may just be that they have been there so long and picked up things from other patients.


A Dutch group who regularly play music at the hospital arranged for a German brass band to put on a concert outside which was well received by patients, staff, and our team members.


Other Events to remember ?

A night out in Brasov celebrating Vanessa's birthday in the few clothes we had, the rest were still somewhere between Heathrow and Bucharest.


The first team 'smelling' a bit.  Due to a problem in the village we went nearly 4 days without any running water.

The 'traditional' football match against the village.  Joining in with the Irish team who were present building a playground in the village we thought we had a chance....wrong....we were stuffed.


Playing Jenga after a few drinks, not a good idea !


The usual excellent Bar-B-Que with the villagers superbly cooked by Garrafita.


The visit to Busteni with its cable car trip, then the attempt to reach the summit of the mountain.  Congratulations to those who made it, especially Enoke, Istvan's wife.


The welder plugged in a faulty appliance, which blew all the fuses in the flat.  Further inspection in the storeroom downstairs where the fuses were identified two had melted as well as blowing the trips.  It is hoped our electrician can fix this during the winter visit.

Winter Visit Report

Detailed below is the report of the visit by Matt Bigwood and John Anyon during December 2003. 

Some photographs of the visit are available at the end of the report.

Members of the North Nibley Romania team John Anyon and Matthew Bigwood travelled to Mina 1 Mai during December 2003 to distribute Christmas gifts to patients in the psychiatric hospital. They bought gifts of chocolate, wafers, biscuits and soft drinks for the 147 patients with money donated by well-wishers in Gloucestershire.

 That hospital is home to more than 140 long-term patients with varying degrees of mental illness.

 “Around 120 patients suffer from schizophrenia,” explained head nurse Mariana Stoica.

 “There are also patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, alcoholism and learning difficulties.

 “Around 15 or 20 years ago the hospital housed a special unit to treat alcoholism, but that has closed. The unit produced good results.”

 Romania’s financial plight and soaring inflation is responsible for many of the hospital’s difficulties.

 Whilst the building is adequately heated, chronic under-funding has meant a shortage of basic foodstuffs. During the charity’s summer August the team bought £300 worth of vegetables. The hospital managed to make them last until early December.

  “We don’t really have vegetables, just potatoes and rice.” The potatoes were grown in fields surrounding the hospital by staff and patients.

 Medicines are also in short supply. Schizophrenics are given a monthly injection of the drug fluanxol, but often the hospital cannot afford the £3 needed for each one.

 When injections are unavailable tablets are an alternative, but often half doses are given to make supplies last longer.

 A new law states that the hospital should only dispense drugs made in Romania, but many of those needed are not manufactured within the country, so nurse Stoica risks accepting donations from a church in Germany.

 However, the nurse explained how some things have improved thanks to the North Nibley Romania Team,

 “The charity has replaced our spin dryer in the laundry, and in the summer replaced a major pipe which provides heat for outbuildings.

 “We have been given a computer to keep records of staff and patients, and have shelters in the grounds.”

 These shelters serve many purpose – in the summer patients are shaded from the sun, and in autumn and winter the provide shelter from the rain, and are used for hanging laundry.

 When asked about what the future held Nurse Stoica said she would like to think that in ten years’ time the hospital would meet Western European standards.

 “If I could have one wish it would be to have a purpose-built hospital, one where people with the same illnesses could stay in the same ward.

 “It would have smaller wards, and the correct number of beds.”

 At present the hospital is restricted to 140 beds, but often there are more patients than beds, and two or three patients share the same bed.

 A lorry load of aid from Britain will travel to Romania in January, carrying essential soaps, disinfectants and toiletries for the hospital, along with boxes of new shoes donated by a trader in Gloucester.

 “The North Nibley Romania Team is our main sponsor, and we rely on them,” said the nurse.