Outgoing Health minister Voiculescu explains his actions, slams PM Citu. The premier challenges deputy PM Barna, the latter retorts

Recently-dismissed from the helm of the Health Ministry Vlad Voiculescu has held a press conference on Friday, stating that 113-day term as minister represent “113 days of tenure and clash of mentalities.”

I am still afraid for the people of this country, for those who need help, for those who are seen by politicians just as voters, for the establishment, for those who were waiting for a change. (…) who saw the reality , which is if you upset the establishment too much they don’t need any more arguments to eliminate you,” the outgoing minister argued.

Voiculescu said he had the experience at the Health ministry from the time he held this office in 2016 (editor note: in Ciolos’ technocrat Cabinet), but still he found vulnerabilities at the level of the central and local institutions, which are “frightening”, as they talk about “the inability of a system to serve its citizens”. “These vulnerabilities do not belong to a certain minister, but to an entire system. To change the system you need people like Andreea Moldovan, of people that you found on the ministry’s website and who were criticized”, he explained.

“I took over a Ministry of Health in collapse. It is too much talk about the image of a minister or another, about abilities to communicate. They are important, but institutions are not built just on image and communication, but with teams and time. Otherwise, nothing will stand. The problem of the Romanian state remains the extremely limited capacity of the institutions. I thought that every minute must be used to gather people and start projects”, he added.

He admitted he was wrong about certain things, for expecting  “a certain decency in times of pandemic, decency from certain politicians, or from a certain side of mass media.”

“I thought that the Prime Minister named in the coalition will not use his force that we have him for reasons that depend more on his political career, as himself had said. Romania needs politicians to act in the benefit of people, on a daily basis.

I thought that we are out of the era of epaulets, of endless privileges. I was wrong. But I am sure this is the way,” the ex-minister continued.

He gave some examples of “such mentalities clashes”.

“I insisted early this year that elderly and the chronically ill should be vaccinated first. It was someone else’s decision that things happen differently. We managed to obtain that percentage of three quarters for the elderly and chronically ill. We have never anticipated that at some point we’ll have more close-circuit centres for the privileged people than the open centres”.

Voiculescu also said that “there are fundamental differences” between reported and actual numbers of deaths in Romania’s COVID hospitals, arguing that the Unifarm national drugs corporation is “one of the biggest robberies of the pandemic.”

He invited Prime Minister Florin Citu to take up these issues and to review the reporting of deaths in COVID hospitals.

We have a health minister, who I don’t know how much time he has, but there are a few things we were working on and investigating. I will ask the interim minister, who also holds the position of prime minister, to review the methodology made under his party’s leadership for the reporting of deaths in COVID-19 hospitals. I wouldn’t want to throw numbers around because I couldn’t research that, but our investigation shows that there are fundamental differences between the reported and actual numbers,” Voiculescu said.

He also called on the prime minister to monitor the situation at Unifarm.

Moreover, since we still have an acting minister who knows the history of last year, I would have a request that is in the public interest: follow the situation at Unifarm. (…) That is one of the Romanian national corporations in danger of extinction; it is one of the biggest robberies of the pandemic. It would certainly be better if these two things were clarified as the acting minister is in office, the more they are directly linked to the party that supported and supports the prime minister,” said Voiculescu.

He further argued that for raising the issue of the close-circuit vaccinate centres, the PM had sent his Control Body at the Health Ministry, and “had splashed with unprecedented accusations in the civilized world”.

“A government that sends to the prosecutor’s office things that do not present in public as well, a premier who gives a signal and this signal is more important than the accusations that are ridiculous. The signal for every person in the healthcare system is that if you want to defend the public interest, if you want transparency, if you want to provide public information, you must be afraid. For you disturb somebody who is not supposed to be disturbed, the establishment will act against you with everything it has got”.

Vlad Voiculescu further stated that managing the pandemic as it has happened in the past months had some episodes that the public did not quite well realized.

“Romania’s PM almost never talking to the Health Ministry’s staff, the PM’s launching targets, goals, without discussing with anyone, Romania’s PM turning into the first epidemiologist of the country, talking about things he didn’t know, that he hadn’t discuss with anybody, with experts like Andreea Moldovan. We can get over this personally, but it is less encouraging for a state.

Every accident in the healthcare system was politically used, manipulated by the Opposition, of course, it’s natural, what is not natural is that coalition partners used these accidents as well, things that were not under the Health Ministry’s authority. The clear responsibility for the evacuation of the patients at Foisor Hospital was under someone else’s authority.

I let these things go by or I thought there are certain limits in a coalition government.

In the end we realized we have a PM who is mocking the work of a team that he hasn’t built, has not known and that he dared to “evaluate” precisely the way Tudor Toader (former Justice minister in the PSD Government) did several years ago.

There is not even place in the health system that has been spared and affected by politicization” , Voiculescu pointed out.

As for his plans after being sacked, Vlad Voiculescu said he wants “to help change things in healthcare and to help those in need”.

“It’s something beyond being a politician. It’s the meaning I have found so far in my life”, he said adding he will need a few days personally and professionally “to set things in his life”, but he would like to continue to change things in the healthcare for the better.

Citu won’t comment Voiculescu’s statements, challenges Barna to confirm allegations on misreporting COVID-19 deaths

PM Florin Citu said he won’t comment statements from the Opposition, when asked to comment the accusations launched by Vlad Voiculescu against him.

“I won’t comment personal opinions, statements made by those in the Opposition every day. I would not have time for that, we have a pandemic to manage, we have important things to do. I would like to assure Romanians that ruling is solid, the coalition is working , we had an important step yesterday at the government meeting where things went very well, we had not problem whatsoever,” Citu said.

 

Asked to clarify why he had framed Vlad Voiculescu as from the opposition, the PM replied that the outgoing minister “is an extra voice joining the choir from the opposition and to Marcel Ciolacu, who has been criticizing him for a year”.

As for Voiculescu’s statement that Covid-19 deaths are misreported, PM Citu asked deputy PM Dan Barna (USR-PLUS) to come out publicly and say if he had known about the issues signaled by Vlad Voiculescu on the misreport on Covid-19 deaths and to say what measured had he ordered.

“I publicly ask deputy PM Dan Barna, who is coordinating the Health Ministry’s activity, to tell us if he knew  about this stuff and what measures he had ordered”.

Citu also called on Barna to publicly present in the government sitting all that he knew about the “mafia in the healthcare system”, allegedly protected by the ruling parties.

“No memo has been presented in the gov’t so far on this issue or if measures have been taken on the mafia in the healthcare”, the PM added.

Later on Friday, Dan Barna responded to PM Citu on Facebook, saying he did informed him about the report on the COVID-19 deaths in the government sitting on Thursday.

Dan Barna said that he had found out about the issue of the misreported Covid-19 deaths on Thursday and that he had asked a secretary of state from the Health Ministry to send a memo to PM Citu. Subsequently, Barna personally informed the premier about that in the weekly gov’t sitting and said that PM Citu would have replied that “he will analyse this information”.

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