A short drive from downtown Bucharest, an eight-storey hospital is rapidly taking shape. The building, which will open in early 2021, is more than just a healthcare facility. It is a symbol of Romanian frustration with successive governments and a growing realisation that maybe citizens need to find their own solutions to the country’s problems.
Since 2015, more than 300,000 people and over 4,000 companies have donated money to construct the facility, which will treat children with cancer and will be the first state hospital built entirely through private donations. More than €30m (£25m) has been raised so far, enough to build and equip it. The heavy metal band Metallica donated €250,000 when they came to play a concert in Bucharest last August.
“I think Romanians needed a project to believe in because for the past 30 years nothing was built, no roads, no hospitals, no infrastructure,” said Oana Gheorghiu, one of the two founders of Give Life Association, the NGO behind the project.
Since the end of communism in 1989, Romania has lagged behind in terms of public investment. It has the lowest spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP in the EU, at about half the EU average, according to the latest available figures from Eurostat. At the same time, each year thousands of doctors and nurses leave the country for better-paid jobs abroad, and corruption and scandals continue to plague the sector.
Last year one Romanian entrepreneur, fed up with the lack of progress in creating a modern road network in the country, inaugurated a symbolic, one-metre-long stretch of motorway he had constructed to publicly shame the government’s lack of investment.