Romania: Trade Unionists Defend the Hospitals of the Romanian Railways

Report by Socialist Action Group (GAS) Romania

The dismantling of public healthcare services shall come to an end! 

On January 25, Socialist Action Group (GAS) members took to the streets to discuss with the workers from the hospitals of the Romanian National Railway Company (CFR), as they protested against the plans of the Ministry of Transportation to abandon their subsidisation. The demonstrators were not hostile towards the nature of our organisation and open to share their experiences and concerns with us.

In Romania, the Ministry of Transportation currently has under its administration its own public hospitals, an alternate network consisting of 15 clinics with the role of ensuring transportation safety and issuing necessary permits for transport workers. Up to 3,500 people work in these clinics. Records from 2014 show that more than 800,000 patients receive medical care and consultation in CFR hospitals each year. 

The government decision – part of the never-ending neoliberal process of privatisation and destruction of public services – is a threat for job security and healthcare access alike. This time, the capitalist state didn’t even bother to simulate a dialogue with the workers and refused to communicate any sort of information with them. 

From the information we got, it seems like the fate of these hospitals is unclear and there are variations between the districts. They are either going to be put into the administration of other entities or simply closed down or even demolished because better ways of generating profit have been found. 

  • In Bucharest, the hospitals are at risk of demolition, as profit can be made from selling the land they are built on. The employees were told that “the piece of land beats the hospital”. The Witting Hospital has been already closed down and protesters told us they suspect a demolition is ahead, as real estate companies want to get a grip on the plot. After some research, we found out there is a chance for the Witting hospital to be taken into administration by the Ministry of Defense.
  • In Moldavia, the employees were openly told the hospitals are going to be demolished. 
  • In Drobeta Turnu-Severin there are also suspicions of an upcoming demolition, as the intentions of the local authority which would take the hospital under its administration remains unknown.
  • The hospital in Simeria is self-financed, it relies on its own funds as it doesn’t receive any government support. 
  • In Iași, the hospital is most likey to be put under the administration of the University, which would negatively affect the negotiating power of the employees. Workers have also decried the bureaucratisation that would happen, as the rector would not be subjected to periodic elections like a hospital manager. 

On June 30, a new wage law is waiting to be passed, an occasion for uncertainty among the workers. Nonetheless the recent protest wasn’t even about wage demands, but rather an initiative to defend the existing status quo against more restructuring that would push both the employees and the beneficiaries into a more vulnerable position. Amongst the demands of the protests, the underfunding of public hospitals and the consequential decrease of the quality of medical services are central issues. 

At the end of the protest, one of the trade unionists highlighted the superiority of the healthcare system before the capitalist restoration in 1989 and called for a new revolution. 

The Socialist Action Group (GAS) considers healthcare an essential need, not a business. Ensuring access to medical services shouldn’t be optional. We propose a free public healthcare system, placed under the administration of the workers, adequately financed according to society’s needs, which offers all the necessary medical services – as opposed to the current situation, in which some services, such as dental care, are completely left in the hands of the “free market”. We are aware of the inherent contradiction between the capitalist system’s logic and this plan, hence the solution lies in the dismantling of the capitalist system –  a reality of which more and more workers are becoming aware of. 

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