2004 Visit Reports

Spring Survey Report

Andy Walker and Alan Hughes visited during April.  The most noticeable observation from this trip was that Nurse Stoica was not pushing for major project work, but, without actually saying so, implying basics such as food and fuel were their major concern.

They received little or no fuel during January.  The injector burner had broken down due to the low level of fuel causing sludge and residue to clog the filters.  This had now been repaired but the capacity reduced.  For two weeks when temperatures were -16c they had no wood and had to obtain it from the forests just to keep the stoves going to cook the food.  There was also a three day period when they had no wood or fuel.

Little food was available.  For a couple of months they had basically been living off basic home made soups, potatoes, rice and a small amount of bread.  There had been no vegetables or fruit for a long time.  Occasionally there were free donations, but they were very rare.  Patients had been collecting nettles and plants from the forests just to make their own soups and teas.  In theory the authorities are supposed to provide £1 per day per patient for provisions, but this had not been received.

There were 140 patients and 140 beds.  There is a waiting list of about 40, and as a patient passes away or is moved on, they are immediately replaced.  About 110 of the patients are schizophrenic which needs their 'funding' goes direct to Brasov authorities and is never seen by the hospital.  There are currently only 11 paying patients.  Patients appeared to be in reasonable spirits but Stoica was worried they will suffer due to the lack of food.


There are still minimal medicines available.  Fluanxsol is their main need, but they have few tablets left.  Medicines are not being delivered from Brasov as promised.  The mortality rate in 2003 was comparatively low, only 7 deaths, most over the age of 70.

The Dentist had advised the Hospital he was not coming back, and they have not heard from him since January.

There appear to be sufficient nurses, with others waiting to join, although currently there are no vacancies.  The Doctor from Brasov is meant to visit at least once a week, but this rarely happens.

The are few sheets and blankets, with a desperate requirement for more.  The Dutch team appear to have got some through Customs recently so it is worth us trying as well.  Clothes and shoes are also desperately short.  The hospital would prefer fewer, but of a higher quality.  A recent donation of cheap pyjamas only lasted a couple of months.

Basic internal maintenance is being performed by the male patients.  There are currently sufficient cleaning and disinfectant materials.  There are no replacement light bulbs.  Fencing around the hospital is due to be replaced in the near future.


Projects for the coming Summer team were discussed, with the following identified - Repair of radiators in the flat - a second shelter at the front of the hospital - repair the benches in the dining room - repair the windows in the mortuary - review the electric stove - repair the buttresses - repair the sewage hole - repair the external electrical box - provide toilet seats for the ladies wards - fix the valves on the washing machine - repair the drainage pipe at the school.

We had an excellent bar-b-que (yes in spring) with one of the nurses, Manoara and her husband at their home in Vulcan.  This was a lovely gesture considering it was Palm Sunday.  We also identified an amazing little wine cellar run from the property, definitely worth a future visit.


Due to the current plight of the patients we felt we had to do something immediately.  We made a personal donation of  basic foods to the kitchen which would provide them with some good meals up to Easter.  We signed the proper donation declaration form emphasing this was personal and did not reflect a change in policy by the charity.  We then presented each patient with some fruit and sweets, which from the expression on many of their faces, was much appreciated.


We also have to mention the weather.  Five days of warm sunshine, between 15-20c.  Totally unexpected, but made the trip more enjoyable.


Summer Visit Report

The team for this Summer visit was smaller than usual, and as such the projects undertaken were not as extensive as in some previous years.  A summary of the work performed is detailed below.

The School

bulletThe broken downpipe made good
bulletThe outlet from septic tank located and unblocked
bulletThe broken pipework was replaced
bulletThe damaged cover to the septic tank was made good.

The Hospital Exterior

bulletThe missing manhole cover was replaced
bulletMinor repairs to the buttresses were undertaken
bulletA second shelter was built
bulletThe first shelter was repainted

The Hospital Interior

bulletThe problem with the washing machine valves was resolved
bulletMinor repair work to the spin dryer was performed
bulletA hot water tank was sourced, installed and commissioned in the kitchen
bulletA second computer was installed in the Nurses office

The Flat and Sewing Room

bulletThe copper pipework was replaced with flexible pipe.
bulletThe downstairs radiators were removed and transported to the welder for repair
bulletThe radiators were re-installed and pressure tested.
bulletThe loft was tidied
bulletThe balcony railings were repainted
bulletThe balcony door was refurbished
bulletA water supply was provided to the food storage area and a wash basin installed

Patient Care

bulletOnly limited time could be spent with the patients
bulletSoft drinks and fruit were provided to all patients on the final day.


bulletFor the first time (to our knowledge) we observed the hospital maintenance
staff working together as a cohesive group.  Throughout the time of our
visit they were engaged making good and painting the exterior walls to the
Hospital and other buildings. 
bulletWe had the unsettling experience of two funerals that impacted on us
bulletWe took the welder and his daughter out for a meal

Probable Future Work

bulletEnhance/upgrade water supply to hospital.  (This would be a joint project
with the hospital staff).
bulletProper refurbishment of kitchen walls and ceiling (again, pressure from
"on high" to sort this issue or "we may close you down")
bulletRadiator for the Pharmacist's room.
bulletBoundary wall at School to be made safe
bulletEarly warning that the School will request a photocopier
bulletThe Charity is no longer required to provide funding for Costica


Winter Visit Report

Members John Anyon and Andy Walker made the Christmas visit this year, and for the first time it was decided to try and stay in the flat rather than in Brasov, despite the winter conditions.  A new electric radiator was purchased to provide heat.  Istvan installed it on the Saturday morning, so when we arrived on Saturday evening, there was a level of heat, but we were glad we had brought our high grade sleeping bags.  Within a couple of hours we had managed to get all electrics and plumbing working and had running water. 


By Sunday morning, the emersion was providing us with plenty of hot water, and we decided we could survive the whole week in the flat.  Sunday was the usual settling in day.  We did a provisions run to the Metro, spent some time with the patients, and also a bit of time in the bar with the locals.  We were also around on the day for one of the biggest changes in politics since Ceacescu, when Basescu, a more Western European biased politician was elected the new President.  We will have to wait and see how that affects life in Romania, and also the work of our charity.

On the Monday, we met with Nurse Stoica, and the 'new' Doctor, Dima Eugen.  The Doctor had reasonable English. 

From the meeting the following was identified :

bulletFuel was still limited, but it was not an issue the NNRT could get involved in due to politics and cost
bulletThey were happy for us to try out the paint in the Kitchen and review the results.
bulletThey were happy for the PC in the Nurses office to be upgraded.
bulletThey again agreed to us filming where and when we wanted.
bulletFood etc.  The situation was again serious, with little available with the exception of potatoes, although there was a businessman in Brasov who was sponsoring some meat donation at the moment. We again offered to purchase some basic requirements for the hospital, and asked them to state what was most important to them.
bulletPatient Christmas Gifts.  There are 143 patients, 79 men and 64 women.  Stoica specifically requested we try and include a pair of socks for each of the patients.
bulletThe ECG Monitor.  It had not been used by the new Doctor as there was no power adaptor.  On investigation, it did have the adaptor, and proved to be working. 
Painting the kitchen
Having eventually understood instructions, and what tins mixed with each other, some of the special paint was prepared.  It was applied in two separate coatings to three trial areas in the kitchen.  Subsequent headaches were probably down to not realising how toxic the fumes were !
The surface produced seemed smooth to touch, hard, resistant and easy to wash, but there seems to be an issue with the expectation of the hospital regarding this paint.  They expected the word smooth to mean 'flat' and smooth, and that this paint would 'magically' perform all the required repair work to the walls as well.  It was explained that that would require re-plastering, or plasterboarding.  The Electrician also expressed concerns that the paint we put up would not allow the walls to retain moisture and breathe.  We explained that the sample areas would be left until the survey team visited to evaluate how well it lasted, but it would not surprise us if they did something themselves to the kitchen before that to try and get the finish they expected.
The remaining paint is now locked in the storage bedroom in the flat.


Gifts for the patients
Through the magnificent efforts of Matt and John by sales of the DVD, plus their exhibitions, there was a considerable sum to spend on the patients gifts.  We were able to provide the patients with bags containing socks, chocolates, sweets, fizzy pop, and a variety of fruit.  All was obtained from the Metro with ease, although we got some odd looks clearing the shelves buying 150 pairs of socks,  !   Simon then assisted us in the bagging up of everything.  The gifts we distributed from the nurses office, and as usual the delight on the patients faces made it all worthwhile.
Provisions for the Hospital
We had a significant sum of money to purchase goods.  This consisted of the remainder of Matt and John's money, some from Andy's sales of monitors etc, plus a large sum from the Charity.   To make our task easier, we did a 'cost assessment' run to the Metro as in advance, we could work out exactly what quantity of everything we could afford.  Our main problem was not what we could buy, but how we could get it back to the hospital.  The Hospital van was in for repair, and the only option was the potential use of a van returning from Brasov with the body of a patient who had died during the week at the Hospital.  We decided against this and approached Vladimir at the Bar about the use of this Van.  He was only too pleased to help.  We went to the Metro with Marianu, the nurse in charge of the Storeroom, to guide us on certain items.  We got everything we wanted, within our budget, including coffee and hot dogs for all.  The cost assessment run had proved invaluable in making this such an efficient trip.  5 laden trolleys, a Volkswagen van, and less than two hours later, we were back in Mina filling the store room.  The supplies purchase should last for a few weeks.

Kindergarten Christmas Play

Andy had inexplicably in advance offered to assist at the Kindergartens Christmas play which was to take place during the visit, and even took out the full Santa regalia.  From money raised from the sale of a few DVD's plus a kind donation from a well known Gin distiller in Warrington, additional gifts were purchased for all the children.  Santa entered the festivities with a Ho Ho Ho and Gracuin Ferechit (Merry Christmas to those who do not speak Romanian) for his 10 minutes of fame.  Unfortunately he underestimated the expectation, and after another 40 minutes of beautiful (but untranslated) renditions from the children, the presents were then given out.  Much of this was caught on film by John 'Spielberg' Anyon.  After the event Santa was only too pleased to join the teachers in one (well maybe more than one) local brandy !    John and I were intrigued by the interest in our video footage, it was good, but was it that good ?  It turns out that one of the children's presents had been taken by another child.  They had used our footage to identify the culprit, and within an hour had apparently got everything sorted !



The Patients
There appeared to be minimal improvement in the patients.  There were a few new faces, but most were our friends from the past.  Costica seemed fine and was his usual self.  They have redecorated some of the wards, and while we were there, John (the painter) spent much of his time stripping down a ward.  Some patients were sleeping in the upstairs corridor on chairs or a makeshift bed, but we do not know why, but could be down to the ward being redecorated.
There was one mistake we made.  We used  ‘Moina’ for two days when broached by the patients for cigarettes.  We had to keep our word, so over 100 packets of Carpati’s were purchased from the Metro.  We could have done with an armed guard while distributing them, but 30 minutes and probably a 1000 carpati’s later what we really needed was Oxygen masks !

Photos and DVD
We approached Stoica about watching the NNRT DVD.  She was keen on this, so it was shown to her, and the nurses present.  The feedback was excellent as they felt it wasn't just showing issues of the Hospital, but gave a good overall display of the village.
bulletThe weather was good to us, although cloudy and murky for the first 2-3 days, we then had some bright (although cold) days, and only got rain on the Saturday we departed.  Snow was laying around the village, and in Bushteni and Sinaia, but Brasov and Codlea were clear.  Temperatures ranged from about freezing to -15 overnight.  The speed of change was astounding though, highlighted by the last night when we trawled back from the bar at about -15, then 8 hours later woke up to +5 and rain !
bulletThe Flat proved perfectly acceptable for the visit. It also provided the additional convenience of being located where we wanted to work, rather than having to travel from Brasov each day.
bulletThe car was again in a relatively poor state.  The rear boot struts failed again during the visit, and the rear suspension is still not good.  There is no doubt the road to Mina contributes to this, but more considerate driving on this road would help maintain the limited lifespan of the car.
bulletWe had a nice meal out with Istvan and Enoka in the Hunters restaurant near the bottom of the cable car.  The taxi ride back to Mina made us realise how poor the suspension on the NNRT Dacia is.
bulletWhen we departed the flat, the electrical fuse was removed, the plumbing drained, and the stop cock enabled to prevent freezing pipes