2008 Visit Reports

Spring Survey Report, March 2008

The Team for this visit between the 27th February and 5hh of March was Matt Bigwood and John Anyon.

A successful trip which managed to embrace all types of weather, from mild spring sunshine to heavy snow showers, rain and gale force winds!

Our journey to Romania could not have been smoother, and we stopped at our 'usual' restaurant in Sinaia for a very welcome meal.

However, things didn't go quite as smoothly for the rest of the day – it was quite cold in Mina 1 Mai with a lot of snow on the ground. Although three new central heating radiators had been installed in the flat they didn't make a lot of difference and we plugged in the electric radiators, but shortly afterwards we had the first of several power cuts, meaning a rapid retreat to the warmth of our sleeping bags. The power was restored the following morning, but meant we were without hot water or a morning cup of coffee!

On Thursday morning we had a meeting with Head Nurse Stoica at the hospital. She had definite ideas and request for the team, the most important being the re-routing of a hillside spring to provide a source of water for the hospital during the drought period in the summer.

She mentioned that she knows someone with a mechanical digger who could do the heavy work, and the NNRT could fund the hire, pay for the pipes and provide the expertise. The weather meant that it was impractical for us to try to find the source of the spring, and assess the scope of the work required.

The nurse's next priority was the continued rewiring of the hospital, and the replacing of old and dangerous sockets and switches. 

She mentioned the importance of new clothes drying areas in the hospital grounds, and suggested the charity helps with a structure to replace the existing clothes line adjacent to the flat. It could be a simple structure with a concrete base, a roof and a number of parallel clothes lines, each 10-15 metres long, to enable laundry to be dried in all winds and weathers.

She told us that there was a temporary food shortage due to a glitch in the central budget, so we decided to spend the £240 available to us on food from the Metro cash and carry.

We managed to fill three large trolleys with sacks of pasta, flour, tinned meat and fish, cheese, eggs and milk powder. The nurse was extremely appreciative and thanked us warmly, and asked us to pass on her best wishes to all members of the charity. She said that what we had bought would see them through to the end of the month.

Other benefactors also provide food from time to time. During our visit a dairy company from Brasov delivered yoghurts, yoghurt drinks and cheese to each of the 145 patients.

We noticed that prices have risen sharply in the year since we last visited Romania. Essential foodstuff, as well as alcohol and tobacco products had spiralled in cost. We bought a few packets of cigarettes to distribute to patients, and whereas they may have cost 50p a packet last year, they were more than £1 this time. 

Petrol and Diesel were also more expensive, equivalent to around 70p per litre. Hospital staff told us that they were all personally affected by the price rises and some put it down to the country's membership of the EU. On the flip side of this, there were many, many more luxury European cars in Brasov – big Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, and generally fewer old-style Dacias.

We inquired about a religious statue in memory of Phil, but were told that there is no permanent area for worship in the hospital. The Orthodox priest visits from time to time, but the services are held in the dining area.

We raised the subject of mosquito nets to keep flies away from patients in the summer, and the head nurse told us that if the NNRT could buy some rolls of mesh the carpenter would make wooden frames for each of the windows, allowing them to be removed when they aren't needed.

We were shown the new central heating boiler and the new radiators – the building was much warmer than in previous years, and more comfortable. The heating boiler runs on conventional Diesel and is far more efficient than the previous system – the new one burns 18 litres per hour as opposed to 30 per hour in the old one.

The old carpenter's workshop is in the process of being converted into two wards, each large enough to accommodate six patients, in line with EU rules. His workshop is now in a new extension opposite the entrance to the kitchen.

The Head Nurse told us that there is sufficient medication, and that the situation is better than is was a few years ago.

There are lots of tables and chairs in the dining room which have been damaged – backs of chairs missing etc, and the nurse asked if the charity could help with these repairs, although it must be said that it should be a simple enough task for the hospital's carpenter.

On the Friday of our visit an elderly couple of Mormon humanitarian missionaries based in Bucharest visited. They had been drawn to the plight of the hospital by the Mormons based in Charfield, who Wendy had introduced to the NNRT. 

They had arranged to meet Istvan in Brasov to buy an industrial sewing machine for the laundry ladies, and also bought various buckets, tin cups, laundry baskets and cooking pots.
The lady mistook Matt for one of the patients and asked where he had learned such good English. She seemed surprised by the answer: “It's because I am English!”

The sewing machine needs a three-phase electricity supply, and the electrician requires 40-metres of cable to install it, but the hospital does not have funds for this at present. It may be that the summer team buys the cable, but the sewing machine can't be put to use until then.

We took a day-off on Saturday and had a great day out in Poiana Brasov, taking the cable car to the top of the mountain. To top it off we went to Brasov in the afternoon and had a second cable car ride to the top of Mount Tampa.

Sunday began with another power cut. It transpired that on Saturday night a drunken lorry driver tried to reverse his truck near the lower shop, but backed into a power transformer.  It was a particularly cold morning with frequent snow showers – and no heating!

We visited the hospital dining room on Sunday lunchtime and were pleased to see that both quality and quantity of food had improved, with mashed potato, chicken legs, bread and soup, followed by a cake each. 

There were many 'old faces' in the hospital – Costica, in particular, seemed happy and well. Popescu, though, was old and frail and it seemed like he may have suffered a stroke. The young twins weren't there, but Maria was, although she seemed somewhat subdued. By about 3.30pm on Sunday most patients were in bed, perhaps due to some sedative medication as there were very few staff on duty.

We checked the John Roche Surgery in the village and found it to be in very good condition and a monumental improvement over what we saw a year ago. There are a couple of areas of damp which will need to be repaired by the summer team. Istvan told us that during January and February the doctor had only visited once a month, but that as spring approached he hoped she would be there twice a month.

Many things have changed for the better in the hospital, but there are still a great many things that fall behind standards we'd expect to find in a similar hospital in the UK.

May Survey Report

This year a second survey team visited between the 13th and 18th of May, comprising of Reg Hunt, John Roache and Peter Tolson

Tuesday : We travelled on the new Easy Jet flight to Romania. and it was good. The only draw back is that check in at Gatwick was early morning, 6.30am, so we went without sleep on Monday night.  We arrived very tired but after a good nights sleep we were back to normal.

Wednesday : We had a meeting with head nurse and discussed the proposed projects. It was decided that for the water project, it would be better if the staff did the work, and we finance the materials. They could start immediately, and quite frankly, if anything went wrong, the responsibility of polluting a water supply would lie elsewhere! This was something we were worried about and a great weight was lifted.

We told the nurse that we were going to get the fuse boxes replaced, as the old ones were in immediate danger of causing fires. She wanted some up-rated outlets so that she could plug in electric heaters. Unfortunately we had to refuse her at this time as the wiring was made of aluminium and could not take the extra current. Rewiring is another story.

She also wanted a food processor for the kitchen as all the mincing of meat had to be done by hand as well as cooking oil, but not urgently. She also asked for the materials to connect her new industrial sewing machine to the 3 phase power.

Finally and most importantly, she wanted a place where she could dry sheets under cover if it rained. It was decided that she needed a shelter 12 metres long and 4 metres wide with a height of 2 metres plus at the lowest point. Designs are under way.

After the meeting we went up to the area of the mountain spring to discuss the technical issues with the hospital foreman.

We then went to see the new sewing machine and made a list of the items needed to connect it to 3 phase power.

The team then went to the surgery to assess the materials needed to fix the damp problem on the walls of the waiting area. We also discovered a few repairs needed to the taps and water connections, and added the items to the list.

We looked at some mincers in Brasov but decided to look at other outlets before committing.

We also had  the car checked as it was making some strange noises. We found that the prop shaft bearings needed replacing and made an appointment for it to be done.

Thursday :  We photographed the old fuse boxes and gave the Electrician the materials to connect the sewing machine.

We went to the back of the hospital and measured up the area for the drying shed. We decided to design the structure and give a shopping list for Istvan to get before the summer. Istvan will also order all the materials for the water project and project manage the work. We visited the new wards in the OT area. They were well converted.

We visited the boiler room. There was a massive transformation for the new central heating, although we learned that the hospital still has not paid the contractor for his work!

We went to the dental surgery and found the water heater to be broken. We will have to replace it with a new mini immersion heater in the summer at around £60.

We all then went to the Contractor who is manufacturing and fitting the new fuse boards. We agreed a contract and paid the deposit of around £2000. We will have to sign the agreements when they are written. The company also recommended a place to get a food processor.

We went on to this shop and purchased a proper processor for around £330.

We also bought the materials to repair the pipes in the surgery.

Friday : We delivered the food processor to the delight of the kitchen staff who then proceeded to shower us with praise and promises of food and drink!

We went to the surgery to fix the taps and pipe. Usual problems of wrong parts but soon sorted it. We left instructions for Istvan to purchase further parts for summer to enable stop taps to be fitted. John calculated the plaster needed to waterproof the walls and replace the rotted toilet door.

We all went to the school and inspected all the new improvements. Wood Burning Central heating would you believe. Also new roof and double glazing with burglar alarm!

Garofita was very sad for the passing of Phil and gave permission for a plaque of some kind to be erected in the Kinder Garden. Saw the new cabinets for the milk.

We signed contract at Electrical contractors offices.

Saturday :  Day of rest, and do we need it! We went up to Poiana Brasov as John and Reg had not been there. Very pleasant day rounded off with an excellent meal.

Sunday Early start form the flight home. Check in at 10.30am.

This was a good team and a very productive team. We all worked well together, and I must thank Reg for getting us out of bed on time with a cup of tea! What luxury.

Istvan worked very hard to keep up with our demands, and must be congratulated for his efforts.

Summer 2008 Team Report

The summer team visit took place over a three week period with the following members visiting

Vanessa Tolson: 17th – 29th July, Peter Tolson : 17th July – 2nd Aug, John and Nona Hexter : 19th – 26th July, John Roche, Piers Lindlay, Chester Slade : 19th July – 2nd Aug, Andy Walker : 26th July – 2nd Aug

The trip started with Vanessa and Peter arriving a couple of days before the team to try to get a head start on getting provisions and materials for the coming project work.

The usual meeting was held with the hospital staff and also to to finalise details of the shelter project.

We encountered problems though. The hospital was incurring administrative and financial changes because the Director was trying to enforce the new EEC directive that stated that there must only be 6 persons to a ward.

Much thought had gone in to this problem, and at one time we were going to lose our accommodation in the flat. They finally stated that the shelter doesn’t warrant a priority, and instead, could we use the money to finance the conversion of an out building into a sewing room so that they could move the sewing ladies out and use their space as a ward. They also wanted to extend the building so that they could add on an occupational therapy unit and use that space saved, for further wards.

We agreed to this as long as we could guarantee our working base in the flat.

We fully intended to start the work for them, but when we inspected the site, it was found that they had toppled the old chimney and many tons of iron was littered on the ground along with what we suspected was old fibreglass and asbestos. We informed the hospital that we would not be sending our engineers in to work on this area, and suggested that they isolate it until it could be cleared safely.

We were now in a fix, because all our plans for work were unravelled. What do we do with our workers? John and Nona came up with a solution. Why not paint the school?

Also we had the Mormon group arriving expecting to do some work. We decided that we could use some of their team to clean the kitchen, and some of the group to replace some lighting in the hospital. The remainder could interact with the patients.

We also had a visit by an American Mormon group who were working in Brasov as missionaries. These also helped to wash the kitchen and lighting.

Apart from Vanessa having to cater for a hoard of hungry people, everything worked well.

We also inspected the site of the proposed spring capture. We were disappointed to find two little exploratory holes that a child could have dug in an hour. They had taken 2 days over this before deciding that there was no spring!

At this time we had some issues centered around the enforcement of the no photography rule, and the gate being operated by a permanent gate keeper who was never around. In all, despite all the set backs, we achieved a remarkable amount of work as follows :

Replaced broken lights, and installed lights where there was none.

Deep cleaned the kitchen walls and roof tiles.

Built Barrier at bottom of stairs.

Repaired crumbling walls at the school

Painted the school.

Worked with the patients

Financed the outbuilding extensions

Finished testing the fuse boards

Fixed walls, leaks and repainted the surgery

Installed new water heater in dentist surgery.

It was agreed that Istvan should project manage the building work, and provide funds for the hospital when needed, on production of visual evidence of progress, and receipts for materials used.

As stated to the Director, we would finance the project with all of our funds on the understanding that we had written guarantee that we would have our base for the foreseeable future, and that we could install a plaque in memory of our friend Phil.

We are now awaiting a reply from the good doctor, and have sent a few gentle reminders. Without the flat, our charity is effectively wiped out.

Winter 2008 Team Report

For the first time in many years, we were unable to send a team for the customary pre Christmas visit.  Thanks though to a couple of large donations towards the patients, we were able to fund the purchase of gifts for the patients and food for the hospital.  Our thanks go to Istvan for arranging this in our absence and ensuring the patients did not miss out this year.  For some pictures of this, check out the blog.