Romania is investing in three new regional hospitals offering modern centralised medical services to improve healthcare

How much do you trust your local public hospital? In Romania, 25,5% of the population isn’t happy with the current state of health care. This number comes mostly from the gap between rural and urban areas, as 90% of hospitals are located in urban areas.

Hospital infrastructure in the country is aged and fragmented. Some hospitals, including the Clinical County Emergency Hospitals in Iasi, Cluj-Napoca and Craiova, operate from a number of separate buildings, some kilometres away from each other.

Overall, the standard of equipment and availability of new technologies is lower than in advanced European countries, and modern services tend to be concentrated in larger urban areas. This undermines health care quality and efficiency and increases costs for the health care system and its users.

To strengthen the country’s health care system, improve hospital infrastructure and provide quality services to its users, the European Investment Bank’s Project Advisory Support Service Agreement (PASSA) team is working closely with the Romanian Ministry of Health to build three new regional hospitals and adapt the current healthcare system.

Hospitals in Bucharest serve 60 000 people per year from Iasi, Cluj-Napoca and Craiova. “These patients must travel for long distances – a trip to Bucharest from Iasi or Cluj takes up to seven hours, which imposes  costs, efforts and sacrifices for whole families,” Cristina Gafton, director of Regional Hospitals Directorate in the Ministry of Health in Romania. “When the three regional emergency hospitals are functional, many of the 60 000 patients and families will no longer need to travel, which will make the numbers drop.”

The four-year-long project is expected to cost around €1.6 billion, with the Bank lendning close to €930 million and providing additional technical assistance.

“This project has come a long way,” says Martin Schriever, a senior advisor at the European Investment Bank. “The old buildings were more like prisons with thick cement walls, making it close to impossible to use modern equipment in them. It’s safe to say that these projects will change the lives of many people for the better.”

Meeting local health care needs

The investment is of major importance for the populations of these regions. It will improve the quality and efficiency of medical services by providing modern infrastructure and equipment, while also reducing inequalities in access to health care.

>@Raitmaer Vlad-Alexandru/Shutterstock
©Raitmaer Vlad-Alexandru/Shutterstock

The new hospitals will be centred around multi-disciplinary and value-based care – a departure from the old system. The new infrastructure will make the entire Romanian healthcare system more cost-effective. The project will also boost Romania’s economy by developing new financial centres around the hospitals, a  calling card for new businesses to settle in the regions.

“The three regional hospitals in Iasi, Cluj and Craiova will have a tremendous positive impact on the local economy: being greenfield infrastructure projects they will represent the centre of new developments and a magnet for the local economy,” Gafton says.

Whole new neighbourhoods are expected to develop around the hospitals. New businesses also bring more opportunities and make  healthcare careers more attractive in these regions.

“New career opportunities for highly specialised professionals will attract younger people, and will also keep the most talented professionals in the region, thus mitigating the risk of brain drain which is still pronounced in the Romanian healthcare sector.”

The new emergency hospitals will create thousands of new jobs, and have over 6 000 full-time employees. 

Advising on the adaptation of the health care system

The new hospitals will be strategically located to cover a wide geographical area and offer integrated medical services and high-quality specialist care for patients in the region.

The European Investment Bank will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health of Romania to support the management and the reform of the local healthcare system. Over the upcoming months, the Bank will continue to advise on a number of technical aspects, such as reviewing designs, preparing the tender for design and construction, property development and hospital and facility management.

The PASSA team is also working closely with a project implementation team at the Ministry of Health to shore up its capacity to deal with complex projects.

“These hospitals are going to re-shape the health care system in Romania in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time,” Schriever says. “It will save a lot of lives and definitely make lives a lot easier for the elderly, families and children not having to travel over three hours for a routine check-up. At present, it’s untenable for the people in these regions.”