The map of the healthcare system has disappeared from the Internet. The Ministry of Health accused of covering up the phenomenon of bribery in hospitals

The system for reporting bribes given in hospitals has been “hacked”, so that concrete data about bribes demanded in each hospital unit is no longer available on the Internet. All at the request of hospital managers, accuse the patients.

  Photo: The Truth Archive

Photo: The Truth Archive

The Ministry of Health appears to be covering up bribery in the medical system after modifying the “Patient Feedback Mechanism”, the tool through which patients could report in which hospital they were asked for a bribe, and the data was public on a hospital-by-unit basis.

Dragoș Vana, the founder of the platform, which created the map of hospital embezzlement based on public data, announced that it can no longer be done, because the data on hospitals and counties are no longer published, but only a total. In addition, the patient feedback form has been modified, so patients are no longer asked if they were asked for a tip, but only if they want to report that they were asked for money or other forms of compensation, reports. “The moment promised in September 2023 by the Ministry of Health has also come, that of modifying the Form from the “Patient Feedback Mechanism”. And it changed. But not only that, the data provided on are no longer complete, per hospital as they were before, but only the totals from each question. So you can no longer see what is happening per county, you can no longer make comparisons, that's it, bye”, wrote Dragoș Vana on his Facebook account.

In addition, following an order from the Minister of Health, Alexandru Rafila, from the end of last year, the patient feedback form was modified. In its original form, patients could answer two separate questions related to the rope. That is, they were asked if “have you been asked for money or attention by doctors or nurses? YES NO”and if the answer was YES, the additional question came as well “do you want to report to the anti-corruption officer of the Ministry of Health that you have been asked for money or attention?”. In the new form, the only question about pay is “if you have been asked for money or other types of compensation by the medical staff, do you want to report this fact?” YES NO”. If the answer is YES, the person questioned will receive the following message: “Thank you! Please make a complaint to the competent authorities or you can send a notification to the Ministry of Health through the postal services or to the e-mail address: [email protected]“.

Practically, the extent of the bribery phenomenon in Romanian hospitals can no longer be assessed correctly, because of the way the question is formulated. According to Dragoș Vana, a total of 54,164 answered this question in the last month, of which 2,111 – YES, 51,721 – NO. “And if we are still comparing apples with pears, because we are forced by circumstances, let's see the result as well. Unfortunately for them, as I predicted, changing the question also increased the percentage. So for February 2024 we have a 3.89% rate of pay at the national level, a new record for the last 6 years. This percentage has not been met nationally since 2017 when it was 3.96%. A big step back for transparency!”, says Dragoș Vana.

The spade goes forward

The president of the Coalition of Organizations of Patients with Chronic Diseases (COPAC), Radu Gănescu, told “Adevărul” that he is certain that this measure was taken at the request of hospital managers.

“I guarantee you there was a lot of pressure to change things. These managers did not like those public reports. And then the Ministry of Health opted for the lack of transparency, for hiding the phenomenon. I repeat, we are talking about a concealment of the phenomenon, because it exists, and the data communicated so far expressed only half of the rate of spies in hospitals because not all patients reported. Basically, they were afraid to do so. However, with and without reporting, the spade moves forward in the medical system. Moreover, since these reports have been made, for eight years, the phenomenon has increased, not decreased. And it will continue as long as patients continue to have this habit of taking money out of their pockets, from the porter to the doctor, including nurses. In addition, this phenomenon will be eradicated when the medical body will rid itself of those colleagues who ask for bribes or even, worse, condition the medical act, in which case we are already talking about villainy. So we, the patients, and the medical body, but also the authorities, must do something. For eight years, they collected data, they knew about the embezzlement reported at each individual hospital, but no action was taken. I don't know, you send the control body, check, talk to people. Has this been done? For eight years nothing was done. So we continue to hide the garbage under the rug, and the costs have increased in the medical system, but the money goes forward”stated the president of COPAC.

Introduced in 2016

The patient feedback mechanism has been implemented since 2016 and aims to evaluate patient satisfaction, the quality of services provided by hospitals and the notification of integrity incidents.

During this period, the number of patients completing the questionnaire increased from just over 2,000 in 2016 to over 50,000 today. So, although the percentage of patients who say they were asked for money by the medical staff has decreased, the number of complaints is higher. In December 2016, only 117 patients reported being asked to pay for hospital care, and now more than 2,000 claim so.

But last year, the Ministry of Health decided to introduce some changes because it considered that this patient feedback mechanism has become less effective recently. The Ministry of Health claimed that it would automatically inform the “competent authorities” if it is reported by a patient that he has been asked for money or other types of compensation by medical staff in a public hospital.