2007 Visit Reports

Spring Survey Report, March 2007

The Team for this visit between the 3rd and 10th of March was : Peter Tolson, John Roche, (3rd -7th) Matt Bigwood and John Anyon (3rd - 10th).


During the meeting with the Head Nurse, she stated that she was concerned with the state of the mattresses in the hospital, (No prompting from us!), but the main problem for the hospital was the leaking roof. She stated that during one rain storm, 2 wards were leaking so badly that they had to be evacuated. She said that it was like standing outside in the rain. She asked us to help, and stated that the maintenance people said that they would need between 1000 and 2000 tiles at a cost of about £800.  After the meeting, we inspected the wards and were indeed horrified.

Immediately after the meeting, we went to the village to view the roof of the dispensary. After using the neighbour’s ladder, we explored the roof area, and found it to be in fairly good condition with no obvious leaks. We talked to the neighbour about his side of the roof where the tiles had been replaced. He gave us the phone number of a company who could supply tiles to the older pattern which would suit the hospital and the dispensary.

The team contacted the company who stated that indeed they could supply, but more to the point they could deliver on the Tuesday at a price of around £500 including delivery for 1,500 tiles.  We made the decision to commit to this.

We then had a meeting with the mayor in Vulcan. He seemed agreeable to everything we were doing, and assured us that the piping and sceptic tank would be in place by the time the teams started work. He offered that he would attend the dispensary with his wife who is a doctor to offer advice on our opinions as to the layout of the new work. He said he would phone Istvan to confirm. He assured us that all permissions were in place and we didn’t need further documentation. We did insist on a document giving the team specific permission to work, and he agreed to supply.  

We made a brief visit to the school, and inspected the “improvements” that the gipsy workers had made at the Mayors expense. Where the concrete had been poured outside the school, the guttering had been moved to the side rather that shortened to accommodate. Apart from looking awful and rattling around in the wind, they had also severed the earthing spike connection, rendering the safety trip system of the school electrics totally useless. It also makes it unsafe. If a fault develops, the current can no longer go to ground. Instead it is more likely to go via the easiest route. A human being!!!! We need to take out a new copper spike and re-do the connection at the earliest possible opportunity.

Garofita is still asking for a new shed, as all the wood was stored outside in the elements. The school roof is in a bad condition. Ground subsidence has effectively caused the building to snap in the centre. Most movement is at the top with a gap of around ½ inch. This in turn has stretched the tiles causing gaps. The gipsy repair is disappointing, and consists of daubing cement at random among the tiles.

The ground concreting is ok apart from sloping the wrong way. We pointed out that all the inspection access points of the longitudinal pipe run had been covered. Garofita then pointed out a tree trunk that had been cemented in. When needed, the cover is below this she said. Problem solved. The back covers were still visible.

The fence at the rear was tilting even more, and is also topped with barbed wire. We really need to do something about this.


The day started with a detailed survey of the dispensary, accurate line drawings on the floor, and filming by Matt and John. John (Roche) listed all the materials needed for the project and the labour required to carry out the tasks with the order of play. This along with the interviews took most of the morning.

The Mayor didn’t phone as promised and was not answering his phone. Matt and John came up with an idea of filming a mother and baby in the dispensary along with an examining doctor. As well as the filming, the doctor could give us advice on the proposed layout.  Istvan also stated that a new shop had opened in Brasov where we could get virtually all our wish list. Off we went to see, and wow, what an improvement. It was just like a B&Q superstore. It had everything.

Late afternoon, the tiles were delivered as promised. No fuss, all on time, job done.


Unfortunately, the time for Peter and John (R) came to an end.  Istvan stated that he had got the Mayor on the phone and emphasised the importance of his role and commitment.

In the hospital, impressions were generally good. The doctors at the hospital were in attendance, and the patients were in good spirits. The dentist is absolutely adored by the patients and when records were checked, she seems to treat around 6 patients during a single visit.  She also helped us with some filming.

Summer Visit Report, July/August 2007

The four week visit was to convert the run down building in the village into a modern Doctors surgery. 

First Team: Peter and Vanessa Tolson, Tom Martin, John Roche, Kevin, Chester, Ted Mills

The project started with the removal of wet crumbling plaster and rendering the inside and outside walls. While this work progressed, a shopping trip was made for all the materials needed for the first phase.

The next stage was to damp proof and render all the walls, followed by the laying of a new wooden floor. It was here we discovered that the room was out of square by some 6 inches!

As soon as the floor was laid, the studding for the partition walls was erected ready for the plaster board. As usual, we found that Romanian materials were vastly inferior to British. Everything took so much more effort to do it properly. We also found that the sand was not really sand, but grit, and plaster took an age to dry!

The outside walls in the meantime were stripped of the old windows and door, and new upvc units were fitted. After the walls were made good, a teralining finish was applied.

As the team was one man short due to the flooding in Gloucester, we were really struggling to keep to schedule. We were working later and later to try to finish the numerous things that make the finished article.

With the partition walls up, it was the time for the false ceiling. Unfortunately we found that many of the ceiling tiles got wet on the journey from England, and disintegrated. We actually did the job with one tile spare due to good use of off cuts. By now Ted had arrived, and work progressed at a better pace.

We now turned our thoughts to worktops, sinks and plumbing. The sinks we purchased were supplied with the wrong fittings and had to be replaced.  We had to dig a deep trench out to the mains water supply at the bottom of a large excavated ditch. This done, the water board was summoned to make the connection. He managed this by puncturing the mains water pipe with a pair of scissors and jamming a patch over the hole! Not the way we would do it in England, but this is Romania! Some good news at this time was the fact that the existing sewage outlet was in good order. This meant that a septic tank was not needed.

It was at this time that we decided to name the surgery in honour of John Roche in recognition of the magnificent effort he made to get this project up and running. Without him, it would not have happened. The John Roche Medical Centre will stand as a monument for years to come. Well done John, you deserve this.

Also keeping the team going was Vanessa with constant supply of food and drink. Again a vital task that often goes un-rewarded.

Second team: Peter and Vanessa Tolson, Tom Martin, Graham Watson, Jonathan Hursthouse, Piers Lindlay, Andy Walker, Jason Lee, Wendy Stevens.

The second phase started in earnest with the electrical wiring. While most of the team were busy sealing and cleaning the floor with a pvc mix, Graham went in search of electrical fittings and sundries. For once, they were found with little problem.

Andy and Tom took on the task of painting the outside of the building in blistering heat.

Johnathan was tasked with assisting Graham when needed along with painting, Piers and Andy were also painting everything inside that didn’t move, and Peter tackled the plumbing. A day’s work turned into 3-4 days work due to Romanian fittings, and as it was decided that we needed a hot water system as well!

The electrical work went well, and the officials were called in to give us a supply meter to connect to. Unfortunately their working practices left a lot to be desired. They pushed 2 bare wires in a socket to power their drills! When they had finished, they gave Graham an earth wire and 2 red wires. They stated that one of them was live and the other was neutral, but they didn’t know which! Grahams face was a picture! They didn’t even stay to see the result! They did re-appear a day later. I think they were checking if we were still alive.

The next thing to do was to paint the walls a pale lemon colour that we mixed up, and to lay a lino tile floor. It really started to look good. After laying the tiles, the rooms became a shoes off zone!

Time was getting on now and we had much to do. We planned an open day to show the villagers what we had done for them, and time was running out. Thankfully the wiring was completed and worked well, but we started to have problems with the paint. The outside was fine, but where we applied paint on the interior, it reacted with remnants of old paint and started to curl and flake! We had to take some drastic action. We stripped the old/new paint, and applied a thick coat of the old faithful PVA, then after drying, painted on top. Thankfully it mostly worked!

During these 2 weeks, the team discovered the wonders of “Montage” industrial adhesive. We all found novel new uses for this wonderful stuff. We all decided that we ought to devote a section of our web site in honour of the project! Honestly, its great stuff. Every tool kit should have some.

The problem with finishing a project like this is one of job satisfaction. The second team had to do a million and one tasks, but no one task was what can be described as big. None the less all these things had to be done in support of the tasks the first team had started. Also during this time, the deputy mayor decided that he was going to put a flood barrier in front of the surgery to protect it. He got the concrete mixer, and then promptly ordered us all off the site for the cement to dry! Another day wasted.

At last we were finished. Even the floor was painted by Piers with concrete paint. Trouble was the hallway had a smooth granite finish. This doesn’t absorb the paint so hence it will not stick. We only found this out on the open day, so cheekily we put a carpet over the damaged area and carried on regardless. It looked good though! Poor Piers almost committed suicide over this one!

The open day was an unqualified success. Vanessa did the honours and officially opened the surgery by cutting the red, blue and yellow ribbon. A TV crew arrived and did filming and interviews for the evening news. A journalist also arrived and gave us a half page spread in a local newspaper. The mayor and deputy mayor attended along with the dentist, the GP and other dignitaries. I think to say that they were impressed is a bit of an under statement. The finished surgery comprised of 2 examination rooms. One for children with cartoon decorations, and one for adults. Also there is a doctor’s surgery making 3 rooms. All the rooms were fully equipped and furnished. We also refurbished the hallway into a waiting area with soft seating, and a toilet and wash basin. Both examination rooms had hot and cold running water, and all rooms were heated by the latest ceramic panel heaters thermostatically controlled. We can honestly say that this facility is as good as any in the UK, and better than some. The overall cost was in the region of £12,000. This figure and more was raised prior to engaging on this project. People seemed to strike a chord with this project. We also itemised our shopping list to ask people to sponsor certain items. This worked well. We must thank Phil Conner for coming up with this idea.

This was probably the most difficult project technically and physically, that we have ever undertaken. It was only finished by the sheer dedication of all our team members. We must not forget that we couldn’t have done our work without sustenance supplied by Vanessa. Wendy, with help from Andy, Jason and Nina made our presence felt in the hospital, where we continued to spend some quality time with the patients. In the words of Johnathan, “it was all spot on!”

In addition to the surgery, we bought an amount of food for the hospital, did some minor repairs and interacted with the patients. Andy did his usual computer repair service for the hospital, and we bought a new printer.

For the school, we supplied new cabinets for the kindergarten and a mountain of acrylic paint, enough to supply all the schools in the Brasov district there were that many. Some we gave to the hospital.

The dentist room also had some minor repairs and a new high speed drill installed. Vulcan Psychiatric hospital boasts that it is the only hospital in Romania with a dentist suite dedicated to the patients. Again this is due to our members who underwrite this initiative.

So, what were the other momories of the visit ?

Jon and Graham with their catchphrases on the good work, Tip Top, Spot On, Champion
Jon and his failed attempts to get screws into the wall until he realised the electric screwdriver was in reverse
Our visit to Moieciu De Sus, a great day out, a hill climb and then never ending wait to get served a meal
The 'walkie talkie' prank played on Istvan making him think there was an animal and Dracula in his room, (sorry Istvan) and his subsequent attempt the next night to make us think there was a bear in the school grounds.
The Mayor getting the work force to help once he realised media would be present for the Open day
Wendy, Piers, Graham all being struck down ill.
'The Lads' Night out in Brasov
Graham, every time he was in a photo always laying down.
The oppressive heat, and subsequent lack of water supplies to wash in.
An episode of a patients falling and cutting their head an subsequent lack of help from the Doctor.
A great Meal and sing song with Furniture Maker at his house in Vulcan
At the same meal above Jon's 'Vlad the Impaler' phone call to Andy's brother
Graham and the cherry brandy
Piers falling asleep yet again !
Graham having to determine the live and neutral from two red wires
Piers painting everything
The patients and the painting they did
The Media on open day, RTT TV (the stunning lady reporter and the vice mayors comments about her), Mix TV, Radio Brasov, Newspaper
Dr Jason examines, Jason with Doctors equipment with kids on the Open Day.
Yorick.  The skull we discovered in the surgery, which remained with us throughout, and now sits proudly in the Surgery 
Montage, amazing stuff.
As stated before, our friend and colleague, John Roche.  Despite being in severe pain, he ensured that the foundation of the whole project during the first two weeks was managed and completed.  A fitting testimony that the Charity decided that they would be honoured the Surgery should be opened in his name. 

Winter Visit Report, December 2007

The visit was performed by Andy Walker and Laura Grandidge between the 8th and 12th December

We arrived with temperatures below freezing, and snow in the mountain areas.  The drive from Bucharest to Mina was not easy for Istvan due to the dense fog again.  They rarely get fog, but also got it last year when Derek and Andy visited, we must bring it across from the UK!!

We had a good meal on route in Bushteni and arrived at the Flat in the hospital about 8pm.  The heaters (and new radiators, see later in the report) had done their job and it was warm and snug.

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On the Sunday, we were joined by Istvan and Nina, both who remained for the visit. 

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The day was spent reviewing previous project work and the flat, spending time with the patients, agreeing with the school what we could offer over the next few days, and as is always the case on the winter visit, trips to the Metro!!

The John Roche Surgery was in good condition; with no defects identified (even the paint is still on the ceiling).  The only concern was that the flat wall radiators were being left on to keep it warm.  This seems an unnecessary expense as currently the Doctor only visits every two weeks, although the Mayor says he will try to make it every one week.  Maybe it could be arranged that someone visits to turn them on the day before the Doctor is due.  There was also a little mildew in one area which it would be prudent to remove.

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The dental surgery was fine, and appears to be well looked after.

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The hospital kitchen was fine, and work was being carried out to put new radiators in there.
We went round the hospital, spending time with the patients.
We visited Garofitsa and discussed with her needs for the school over one or two or thirty brandies plus Ciucus, Andy lost count, and after 1pm was a little worse for wear.  We were also approached by the Priest from the Orthodox.  Church about providing a small gift for all the children on his church.  We discussed as a team, and decided that we wanted to give gifts to the children, but not be associated with any specific church.  The NNRT association has been with the school, not a specific church, and we did not want to offend anyone.  We agreed to buy gifts for all the children at the school and kindergarten, regardless of the church they attended, and we would explain this to the Priest.
We went to the Metro and amongst other general items, purchased sweets chocolate and an orange as gifts for the 120 kindergarten/ school children.

In the evening we took Istvan and Enoke for a lovely meal in a new Serbian restaurant in the centre of Brasov, just up from McDonalds.  With the snow, Christmas lights, and massive tree in the square, Brasov looked beautiful.

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On the Monday, we met with Head Nurse Stoica and Dr Ropotan, with the following observations, comments and potential projects:

A new heating system is currently being installed throughout the hospital.  New radiators are already present in the flat and downstairs areas.  They were being installed in the kitchen while we were there.  The role out to the rest of the hospital will be complete in the next few months.
Fuel for the new heating system has already been delivered.
The Medical authorisation for the Dental surgery has already been approved and is now under the registration of the hospital, not the NNRT.
The ‘workshops’ in the OT building are in the process of being converted into wards.  This is part of a much larger government funded project to improve the OT facilities, and utilising the current stable buildings.  They are proposing to move the Club Room into the new OT environment and converting the existing room into another ward.

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The primary hospital PC is in a poor state and needs replacing. 
They have a reasonable level of food, but breakfast is only bread and jam.  Flour, corn flour, eggs and processed cheese would be of benefit.
Many of the fluorescent bulbs in the hospital needed replacing, 4 exterior, and 13 interior.
It was asked if we could assist in the purchase of new dressing gowns for the patients.  They can be sourced locally for about £6 each.
The drying of clothes was a problem.  Many were being left outside on the gazebo.  It would be useful to come up with some other drying option, racks, heated annex?

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There is a need for the 3 section stainless steel bowls for the patients to eat from.  They believe about 100 are required.
Some of the large cooking pots in the kitchen needed replacing.  The best would be 50 litre pots.
They are looking at installing a Generator for emergency power to cover critical parts of the hospital, but it seems this will now be funded and sourced locally.  They could also benefit from some emergency torches, may be wind-up rather than battery powered.
They would still like us to consider continuing the rewiring of the hospital, most importantly the upstairs, including the replacement of old Romanian sockets.
At the moment mattresses are ok, but they will probably need about 50 more over the next couple of years.  They are in the process of replacing old beds, and asked whether there was a potential for the transport of them from Bucharest to be funded, about £100.
The main project suggested for next year though was the provision of increased water to the hospital.  They had been incurring increased water shortages, and would like to consider again taking stream water from the hills into the hospital.

We then visited the school and presented the gifts to the schoolchildren.  The first thing we noticed was that all the old doors and windows had been replaced with new double glazed ones.  In addition radiators had been installed, although had not yet been commissioned.  They were building an annex to the school to house the generator. We spent time with the children, and also met Ropotan who has there giving educational games and exercise to the kids.

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The afternoon was spent at Codlea and the Metro buying the gifts for the patients and the interior and exterior electrical light fittings for the hospital.

In the evening, was the arduous task of bagging up the presents for the patients, 150 bags.  We had sweets, chocolate, cheese triangles, biscuits, an orange and a banana.  Nina was there to assist, and with the help of a very large bottle of Merlot, and then the Garonne cherry brandy, we did it in less than two hours.  This lead on to us talking about the past members, and for the next two hours, we started the list of them which was to be circulated around the team to update as best possible.  It was a highly enjoyable and fun evening for the three of us.

On the Tuesday morning, we went to the hospital and gave out the bags of gifts to the patients.  Again many of them looked bewildered, but also many very appreciative.  It gave us the opportunity to spend time with many of them, a very rewarding experience.  Many had deteriorated since the summer, Popescu specifically.  We looked at the possibility of a mosquito net facility, and think it could be viable for one of the wards.

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We spoke to the nurse in charge of the food store, and she advised differently on their requirements. We decided on a cut down list of some food which they could benefit from.

In the afternoon we made yet another visit to the Metro.  We purchased 25kg of pasta, 13kg of cheeses and about 40kg of tinned tuna.  We also decided to purchase two 50 litre pots and lids for the kitchen which cost about £100 each. These and the food were then presented to the hospital, and an offer of donation form completed.

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On the Wednesday morning, we completed all outstanding administration, cleaned and tidied the flat, and set off back to the airport.  All was going fine until we were flagged down with about 20 minutes to go.  We had a puncture.  A nifty bit of footwork with the pump got it to a state to be drivable again, and we made the flight in time.  Istvan sorted the tyre out before he returned to Brasov.

Other observations from the visit.

There was a problem with the car lights, they were fixed.
There is now competitive car hire rates from Bucharest Airport, for shorter small party visits, it could be worth considering this.  It can save a lot if Istvan’s time, plus give us an extra car for flexibility during the visit.
In the hospital kitchen, where they are replacing radiators, there is a need for some tiles to be put replaced.
There is a new fridge in the hospital kitchen.
There is a large new freezer in the food storage room.
There was a leak in the roof of the flat, with water dripping thru. We identified it to be from the chimney area, we did a patch up and bucket job, but it needs to be properly fixed.
There is a need for a few replacement 1.75m 80w strip bulbs.  These were not available in Romania and may need to be sourced from the UK.

‘Funnies’ from the visit

·        The ‘happy’ state of Andy, Laura and Nina trying to ‘bag up’ the patients gifts while listening to music and under the influence of the Merlot and Brandy.

·        Taking Nina home late one evening the large puddle which jumped out and attacked Andy.

·        The ‘missing’ pot lid.  One of the new ones we had purchased went AWOL.  It was actually inside the pot all the time, but someone had put tins of tuna on top so it could not be seen.

·        Andy worse for wear at Garofitsa’s.  Numerous suika’s or brandies and 2 bottles of Ciucus.  Her claim was “You are a man, you should drink it!

·        Laura thinking she only had twenty minutes to complete the flight and catch her bus home – she was looking at the Romanian time rather than the English time on the in flight screens!