2005 Visit Reports

Spring Survey Report, April 2005

The team were Vanessa, Peter, Matt and John.

Meeting with Head Nurse and Doctor : We had the usual meeting on the first day, had a tour of the hospital, and asked for requests of what was needed for now and the summer.

Some of the wards are freshly decorated and they asked for some colour for their white paint so they could continue. (Paint only comes in white and you buy small pots of concentrated colour to add).  20 sets of Door handles were bought along with much needed Shampoo and Disinfectants.

Not too many requests this time, they are very happy with the new washing machine and kitchen plans as it will make life much easier for the laundry and kitchen staff.

Dentist situation : We have found a new dentist, who has a practice in Vulcan and was employed there for a 6 month contract when Caucescu decided they needed a dentist there, she is still there 24 years later! She visited the surgery in the hospital and found a few things missing.  These will be sourced by the Charity. She will begin work in May just doing extraction's and general survey of the patients teeth till the rest of the equipment arrives. The NNRT will provide all equipment and consumables e.g., anesthetics, cotton wool, filling materials etc. It is also beneficial that she is well known and liked by the hospital staff and the villagers.

Food and Drugs at the hospital  : They are still short of food and we left a sum of money with the Head Nurse to buy food. She gave us a receipt for the money and will show us receipts for the spending of it in the summer. We did not have time to go and purchase food on this trip.

Hospital Kitchen  : When we arrived, we found that Romanian workers were steadily stripping and plastering the walls. They are doing a reasonable job. After careful consideration, we decided that the finish was acceptable to our new covering. On examining the rest of the kitchen, we found the tiled areas to be less than satisfactory. We are going to all this trouble to make the kitchen clean and safe, so why not replace the tiles.  We instructed the Romanians to strip these away ready for new tiles to be placed.  These have been sourced and costed. It was decided that the colour scheme would be Cloud effect light blue tiles. Cream painted walls. White ceiling tiles with a smooth finish.  We need ceiling tiles to cover 53 square metres less a small amount for ducting and main ceiling support beams.  We will also require wall paint twin packs for 105 square metres and wall tiles to cover 70 square metres.   There is a slight problem with the lights. They are placed on the walls, but are a little too high. The intention is to have the false ceiling just below the secondary support beams, leaving the main beams exposed. The lights may have to be lowered by a few millimeters.  One of the staff has a metal tower we can borrow, and the hospital has a wooden home made tower which we can use as well. These are judged to be adequate for our purposes.


The kitchen has now been mapped, and is drawn to scale. There are a few discrepancies, but with the complexity of the kitchen this is to be expected. The drawings are accurate enough for our use, and John and Matt have supplemented the drawings with a comprehensive photo file.  We estimate the following will be required to perform the work in the summer :

Two painters/decorators with experience with twin pack paint coverings,  Two Ceramic Tilers, one ceiling fitter to work with existing staff , one electrician, and possibly one plasterer/general builder.

Washing Machine   : The purchase of the new washing machine is well underway. Prior to delivery, we did a survey of the wash room. The spin dryer is working well.  The stainless steel automatic is not working well. Apparently no sooner than it fills with water, it starts to empty again, giving a very short wash cycle.  The old washing machine still rumbles on, but sounds worse every time we hear it.

It is planned to remove the wall and the window directly behind the washing machine to facilitate extraction of the old, and replacement of the new.  Unfortunately, late on Saturday, a problem was spotted. The 3 phase supply box is buried in the wall which is being knocked down. Unfortunately, the staff who are doing the demolition were not around to question.

We went to see the new Mayor who is currently on the case.  We tried out the theory of entering the hospital from the front, but that is definitely a non runner. The hospital staff said that they knew how to install the machine. When we questioned them on this, they did not. They wanted to build a cement base and lower the machine on to this. We instructed that the machine must be placed on to a solid floor, and levelled before fixing. Only then could they build a concrete surround for the base. After installation, it is planned to rebuild the wall and install a new window behind. We do hope that they do not remove any supporting beams, or we may not have a hospital to go back to in the summer. The staff seem to be confident in their abilities.

The Flat : The radiator works well, but a second radiator is desperately needed. It was very cold, and we had to rely on a fan heater and an oil filled electric radiator. We have two spare radiators in an outbuilding which are serviceable, but require installing .We now have a fully functioning shower in the flat. New glass need to be put in small room windows in the summer.

Heating  : The hospital heating system seems to be functioning well, apart from a dead spur in the store room downstairs. It may be blocked and require some form of clearance.

The School : Inspection of the classrooms showed the floor to be in good condition. The desks needed some maintenance which we provided. The school is short of 5 desks, and we arranged the purchase with the previous manufacturer. They will be delivered in May. The toilets were functional and clean. One flushing mechanism needs replacing, but will last until summer. There seems to be an obstruction in the waste pipe. It could be a disinfectant block holder. Probably the whole system could benefit from “rodding” all because of the insistence of using these items that we specifically said not to use. Such is life. The waste pipe end cap was replaced yet again. We need to rethink a protection system. The back wall next to the path was examined. It appears that the soil that was pressing on it has now been removed, and a simple breeze block wall needs building. This is of secondary importance to the hospital and is non-critical.

The Car : Was found to be in good working order,  the repair after the accident was done well. It will last us another few years.

The Mayor of Vulcan : We set up an appointment to see the new mayor  who speaks excellent English, he is looking into the supply of a crane/forklift for moving the washing machine, and also into the hospital boundaries and who owns the land that the spring behind the hospital is on. He also said that he knows that Mina-1-Mai suffers with lack of water in the summer and it is one of his tasks to try to sort that out.

The natural spring / water supply for the hospital : We went and looked at the site of the spring in the woods at the back of the hospital, it is feasible but a big task and not one we feel we can undertake this year.

Sand & Shingle : We arranged for the delivery of 4 lorry loads of sand & shingle to be laid by the hospital workers outside the front of the hospital.  Where the heating pipes were dug up and replaced  by NNRT in 2003 it turns the ground into a quagmire in the wet weather.

Patient Care : The patients are the same as ever, they are getting better medication, but still not enough food or clothing, their personal hygiene is the same and they still lack motivation and still sometimes wander aimlessly.

The Doctor  : The Doctor is there every morning and on talking to him he does seem to genuinely care about the patients, he is concerned that some are truly forgotten by their relatives and believes that a visit from a relative would be better than medication in some cases.

Other items requested

Practical clothes, Jogging bottoms & tops, t-shirts & socks, things that can be unisex.

Nightwear & dressing gowns. New Underwear.

The occupational staff asked for some of the tractor drive computer paper as they use it to make envelopes, & general paints, crayons etc.

The school also need drawing equipment & paper.

Dentist equipment : Instruments for lower teeth molars, extraction's, drill heads, mouth mirrors, turbines & drill bits, scrapers & probes, self setting filling materials, spatulas, cotton wool, syringes.

Summer Visit Report, July 2005

This was one of the largest teams to go out for several years and included five new members visiting Romania for the first time.  Considering this years project was to effectively rebuild the kitchen, and there was only one team for two weeks, the numbers were appreciated.

The team were met by Istvan and Vladimir from the pub and transported from the airport to Mina.  As usual, this was a tiring 3 hour journey.  Just from this initial journey, it became evident the condition of the roads from Codlea and into Mina had deteriorated significantly, with many new and deeper pot holes.  Despite arriving late evening, we still had to move many boxes in from the sewing room before a good nights kip.  Peter and Vanessa 'bagged' the beds in the flat, while the other 10 members slept in the school.

On the Sunday morning, the new members were given the general familiarisation tour of the hospital and village, while Vanessa and Andy did a mammoth shop at the local Metro store to stock up on food and water to support 12 people for the next few days.


The general condition of the hospital was good, and the laundry was superb.  The staff say it is the best in Romania.

After the spring survey trip, the hospital staff were employed by the team to prepare the kitchen for our renovation.  We all trooped into the kitchen, and our hearts dropped.  It looked like someone has detonated a bomb to remove the tiles.  It was a total mess.  After a hurried conference, it was agreed by all that the walls would have to be stripped back to brick in many places and rendered before we could even consider painting and tiling.  The rest of the day was spent getting all our shipped items in some semblance of order.

To enable us to perform the rebuilding of the kitchen, we had to persuade the staff to keep the kitchen free from 9-5 each day.  So for 10 days, the kitchen staff cooked in the evenings, and on several days, apart from the soup, patients had to put up with more cold meals than usual.

Monday morning, work started in earnest.  The team began to clear the walls of loose rubble, and in many places taking them back to the original brickwork.  Peter and Istvan in parallel went in search of the building materials we were going to need. It was a successful day, with only the car suffering, 93 boxes of tiles and many bags of ready mixed rendering cement.


During the next three days, the team worked together superbly stripping down the walls, rendering and starting the painting and tiling.  John, Derek and Ted ensured the plastering was of a high quality.  Andy, Piers and Jason put up the special paint which was tested during the previous winter visit.  This paint was very expensive, but hardened like tiles to provide a highly resilient and easy to clean surface.  Peter, Ted, Ken, Reg and Tom commenced the massive job of the tiling and grouting, which would continue on for several days.  Throughout this time, Vanessa ensured we were kept refreshed and well nourished to complete the work in a timely manner.


Towards the end of the first week John and Ted were able to start on the erection of the false ceiling.  This proved to be more difficult than first envisaged, but with the help of the other team members performing electrical and labouring tasks, the whole project was eventually completed by the end of the second week.  This also included the painting of all doors and radiators and the repositioning and repairing of the lights.  During the final two days, we managed to purchase and install a purpose built stainless steel double sink unit to replace the old leaking ones.  This job was a massive achievement and the work put in by everyone cannot be under-estimated.



Although the kitchen was the main project, we also managed to perform other important jobs.

Derek ensured a new concrete ramp was constructed in the laundry room to ensure easier access to the new washing machine.
Andy installed and configured a PC and new printer in the school
New chairs were ordered for the dining room
5 new benches were purchased for the school
New toilet seats were supplied to the school and hospital
The dental equipment previously supplied was checked and was fine, but it was found the dental cart was broken and beyond repair.  It was deemed unsafe and removed from the surgery.  We are desperately now looking for a replacement as without one we can only instruct the dentist to perform emergency extractions.
In advance of the visit, the new school gates we had facilitated were built and fitted.


So what of the patients this year ?  Most seemed to be clean, though they generally only bathed once a week.  The ladies had longer hair, not scalped as seen in previous years.  They had reasonable shoes and trainers so they must have received these from elsewhere, but the clothes were still poor,  many still wander around in nightwear and sometimes barefoot.


Unfortunately this year, due to the nature of the project, the weather, and limited care assistant resources, we were unable to spend as much time as we usually would with the patients.  Vanessa was able to spend some time doing make up, nails etc. and Andy and Jason were able to spend one day playing a range of games with the patients in front of the hospital.  For future visits, we could really benefit from more care assistants.


The food situation at the hospital was reviewed, and again they had very limited supplies.  We decided that we must supplement these and purchased a range of foods to keep them going for a couple of weeks.


We did manage to enjoy ourselves as well.  This was an excellent team who worked and socialised together superbly.  Some of the notable events were :

Our new member Ted.  His infectious laugh and humour was much appreciated by both the team and the villagers.  By the end of the visit it seems he had become engaged to at least three different ladies !
We went out for a meal in Brasov with Istvan and Enoke to celebrate Vanessa's birthday.
During the second week, the traditional barbeque was held, although the rain meant it had to be completed indoors.  Not that Piers noticed as the local plum liquer caused him to nod off in his chair !
The hospital provided a slap up meal which was much appreciated.
During one night in the school, a well hidden radio controlled gadget caused much amusement, as Istvan became the phantom raspberry blower of Mina for a couple of hours.  His amusement was obvious............NOT.


We also had an 'invisible' 13th member for much of the trip this year.   She appeared on numerous occasions, and did an excellent job in getting the patients involved in several laborious tasks.  She ensured the tiles were efficiently unloaded from the van.  She ensured that we moved boxes quickly from the storage area of the flat.  She ensured that the food was unloaded and stored without problem.  She ensured materials were moved into the kitchen without hassle.  On several occasions she was called in at short notice for other tasks which got performed smoothly.  So a big thank you to our west country lassie, Farmer Jane, she made our life a lot easier.   For those of you not present, I had better explain.  Thanks to Ted's accent, Farmer Jane evolved from the way he pronounced the regularly used phrase, 'form a chain'.

In summary, a superbly enjoyable trip, an excellent team, and a magnificent project completed in tight timescales.


Winter Visit Report, December 2005

Team members John Anyon and Matt Bigwood set off for Mina 1 Mai on December 7th. There were two main objectives; to buy food and gifts for patients at the Vulcan Hospital, and to take photographs for future publicity and fund-raising purposes.  On arrival, conditions were not as severe as they had been during previous Christmas visits, but by the weekend night-time temperatures had dropped to –12 degrees in Brasov, and probably lower in the village.  

A meeting was arranged with head nurse Marianna Stoica for Friday, the second full day of the visit, as she was not at work on Thursday. We also met the new young doctor, who seemed very motivated, but left day-to-day running of the hospital to Nurse Stoica.   The head nurse had prepared a list of priority requests, much of it food, but also a small list of equipment. She asked for two stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors – specifically mechanical ones, not electronic versions. Also, she requested a number of thermometers, again, the traditional mercury type, not digital ones. These were purchased at a pharmacy in Brasov at a cost of around £50.  

Hospital staff met the team at the Metro to purchase a large quantity of food – so much in fact that it filled the hospital’s Dacia pickup truck and Istvan’s estate car. Around £550 was spent on large bags of pasta, tinned fish, meat, and vegetables, eggs, cheese, margarine and many other items. It really hit home when the lady from the kitchen asked for 50 large tins of peas, saying that this would be enough for one meal. Despite the large quantities bought, it can only be seen as supplemental to the regular food supplies. Some speciality food was bought – a 5kg jar of pickled red peppers for flavouring, and several boxes of what looked like Turkish delight, both of which would be used in a special Christmas dinner.


 The team decided that this year buying food would take precedence over gifts for the patients. In previous years teams had bought 150 carrier bags and filled them with sweets, biscuits, wafers, soft drinks and cigarettes. This year we bought 150 bars of good quality chocolate and the same amount of chocolate wafers and handed them out from the doctor’s office as patients queued. The gifts were also taken to those bed-bound patients who could not make it out of the wards.


On Saturday afternoon there was a sudden burst of activity in the hospital when three cars arrived – all less that a year old, and prestige vehicles, a 4x4, a big Audi and a VW Passat. A number of smartly-dressed people got out and unloaded carrier bags full of presents. One of the women spoke good English, but was not very forthcoming about the source of the presents – she said they were ‘friends’ of the hospital, ‘not a company or a charity’. It was thought that one of them may have a relative in the hospital, but would be reluctant to admit it. The bags seemed quite full, and certainly contained oranges as well as sweets. It’s probable that these won’t be the only gifts that are handed out, so in hindsight, the decision to concentrate on food seems to be right. Istvan also pointed out that it is one thing to hand out Christmas presents, but different altogether to provide year-round support for the patients.

Nurse Stoica said that at the moment heating in the hospital is on for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. The building didn’t seem particularly warm on the times we visited, and most of the patients in the communal corridor were wearing coats and hats. She also said that the current fuel-injector in the boiler, whilst working well, was dependent on a supply of high-quality Diesel. They are spending 250million Lei, the equivalent of £5000, per month on fuel. She said that if it could be replaced, or adapted, to use a lower grade of fuel the heating could be on for much longer for the same cost.  One of the directors in Brasov has apparently earmarked this as a priority, but there is no guarantee the work will be carried out this winter, or even the next.

“Patients are getting used to the cold in the wards,” said Nurse Stoica.  “They aren’t having enough food, and are getting fed up with just rice or pasta. They walk around on cold floors and become sick.”  “From time to time charities bring clothes, so there is not a problem there.”    She also said the supply of drugs is intermittent. They have not had any antibiotics for several months, and some of the medicines for mental illnesses have ceased to be manufactured in Romania, making them more expensive as they have to be imported.  “There are times when there is not enough medication for patients, but other times when we are lucky. At the moment we have a full allocation, but in a week’s time this may not be the case.”

The team were able to meet the new Dentist, who was eagerly awaiting the delivery of a relatively new dental cart which the charity has managed to obtain.  This should arrive early in 2006.


The kitchen was in excellent condition, with all the work done by the summer teams still in good order. The ceiling did not appear to have been stained by smoke from the stove, and the work surfaces were as new. Eugenia, one of the kitchen staff, showed us bags of adhesive and ceramic tiles which will be used for re-tiling the floor – this will be done by the hospital itself, rather than by a charity. The tile colour matched those put on the wall by the summer team. 

The head nurse told us that food is still a problem – the monthly allocation from Brasov sometimes only lasts a week. She told us that the whole of the Brasov region is in debt – food is bought on credit, but they cannot afford to pay off the debt. On a positive note, the hospital now grows sufficient quantities of potatoes for its own needs.

Several patients who are familiar from previous visits seem to have regressed.  On Tuesday, the final evening of our stay, we went to the hospital at around 6pm to photograph. The doors were locked, and there were very few nurses; in fact, the only person we saw for some time was the gate man who was watching over patients in the communal corridor. A man was walking around naked in the downstairs wards and dining room, and was not spotted until he walked upstairs where the gate man was sitting.