Cell phones: Prescription for progress in RomaniaNovember 26, 1998
Web posted at: 2:33 p.m. EST (1933 GMT)
BUCHAREST, Romania (CNN) -- In the Romanian capital, a business partnership between doctors and a cellular phone company is leading to better conditions in a country with many substandard medical facilities.
Marius Filip, an orthopedic surgeon, started it all.
Filip works at University Hospital, one of the most modern government-run medical facilities in Romania -- but one that still falls far below the medical standards of major Western nations.
The surgeon contacted Connex, a cellular telephone company, and set up a partnership between Connex and 25 specialists from University Hospital.
For decades, it's been difficult for Romanians to get telephone access. In recent years, cellular telephone companies have begun popping up across the country, filling the gap with inexpensive and available phone service.
Now, Connex supplies cellular phone service to the specialists, who, in return, are on call -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- to all Connex employees.
The partnership also includes a dental office and an out-patient clinic.
Filip, who coordinates the program, says it's a great deal for all parties involved.
"It's cutting time and money," he said. "It's going very fast, connects people very quickly, and we can give them a diagnosis and treatment in a very short period of time, and that's very important for them and also for us." (374 K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Other hospital patrons are benefiting, too, because the Romanian government approved a plan for some of Connex's tax dollars to be earmarked specifically for University Hospital.
"This kind of mutual contract is the only way right now for Romania to improve its quality of medical care," said Dr. Sorin Oprescu, director of the hospital.
According to Filip, Romania's reputation for poor medical resources acts as a deterrent to business ventures and international visitors.
He's hoping his doctors-on-call program, and the benefits University Hospital reaps, can change those attitudes as the extra money coming in is used to upgrade medical equipment and technologies.
But changing long-standing attitudes may take time.
A Belgian couple, visiting Romania, was taken to University Hospital following a car accident. The couple told CNN they chose to be airlifted to a medical facility in their home country rather than have the wife undergo facial surgery at the Romanian hospital.
"Everybody here, doctors and nurses, did their job very well, but seeing all the patients in the corridors, I assume they're a little bit overwhelmed," the husband, Gerard Flemal, said. "I've never seen so many people in a hospital."
Filip says he understands the couple's concerns, and says the hospital's medical staff knows it must be especially attentive to wary patients who demand the treatment traditionally given in many Western hospitals.
The Connex converts
Connex's staff appears to be pleased with the treatment it gets in the company's exchange program with University Hospital.
David Scott, the company's director of sales, injured his leg while on vacation. Scott flew to his native Canada for medical care, but had to return to Romania for work.
There, he got physical therapy at University Hospital.
"If this is my benchmark, I'm very pleased with it," Scott told CNN. "You know, the facilities might be a little bit more antiquated than what we have at home, but the result was fantastic."
In addition, Connex employees said, the company's program with University's specialists has introduced a concept previously unknown to most Romanian citizens: health care benefits from an employer.
Filip said the program with Connex is working so well, the hospital is considering plans for similar partnerships with other companies.
Correspondent Allard Beutel contributed to this report.
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