SMURD founder Raed Arafat fights back ‘poor management’ criticism in the ‘Colectiv’ fire crisis

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The secretary of state within the Interior Ministry, Raed Arafat rejected all accusations regarding the ‘Colectiv’ crisis management, saying during a TV debate on Wednesday night that there was no mistake regarding the intervention nor in managing the issue by the hospitals. Arafat said that the only persons who are mistaken are those ‘fingering and accusing without have all information.”

“Everybody has the right to accuse. In Romania, instead of being all welded to do something, we created two camps and started to point at each other. This was the biggest mistake. For, in the future, any similar situation might lead to a lack of response. I already see some of my colleagues who don’t want to get involved anymore to take decisions, who don’t want to go to the scene, to lead interventions, they don’t want to do anything,” Arafat pointed out.

The official, SMURD founder also warned that some information have many hidden interests behind. “There are tens of data released during all this time and nobody knows who gave delivered them. Like the topic of hiding the bodies,” Arafat added.

The Interior ministry’s official argued that the teams of doctors coming from abroad said that part of the patients is not transferable.

Referring to the EC civil protection mechanism, Arafat unveiled that there were talks with this body since last Tuesday.

“We have discussed since Tuesday. It’s a department of the European Commission which is monitoring disasters. This mechanism is not typical for this situation (…) If there is an earthquake tomorrow, the mechanism is triggered instantly (…) If you have a number of burnt in a country it’s not a typical case to trigger the mechanism. Then we should go to bilateral relations. And we have seats available in hospitals abroad more than we need. The problem is that some patients are not transportable,” Arafat explained, adding that U.S. also expressed availability to receive injured but this is not possible due to the long distance. “I cannot fly patients 12,13,14 hours in a plane,” Arafat argued.

Particularly responding to the “Doctors’ Alliance” critics, that Romania doesn’t have the capacity to treat major cases of burnt people, Raed Arafat told an interview to mariustuca.ro that our hospitals can deal with these cases, but this time it was the high number of burnt patients at once. “So, we had, all of a sudden, tens of burnt patients who came at the same time and the hospitals couldn’t treat all of them.”

“Nobody can say that we don’t admit we have few hospital beds for burnt, but we are working on to solve this problem (….) That’s why the French doctors came in Romania, the first Sunday after the tragedy, there is a program financed by the World Bank to raise the capacity of complex hospital beds for burnt. But it’s a program that will take time, it has been designed for over a year and is in course of implementation”.

Moreover, Arafat said that all testimonies of the foreign doctors who came from France, Israel, Belgium, UK or Germany and who saw all the patients admitted in critical condition in our hospitals underlined that the treatment administered in the Romanian hospitals so far is beyond expectations and that they would have done the same. “However, the pressure and the hospitals’ overcrowding will lead, they have already led, to the doctors’ fatigue. And this pressure stress must be removed. Which we’ve done by gradually transferring some patients abroad. Then whom should I believe? Neutral persons from other countries, who saw with their own eyes and gave separate statements or a group of doctors, that I don’t know who they are, what are the interests behind them and all they’ve done is to hit those who have worked, while they sat on the fence and commented,” Arafat stated.

According to the secretary of state, a huge number of Romanian doctors teamed up to help the doctors who were treating the injured, thus responding to the accuses that Romania did not have a well-trained medical staff and that detaching doctors from other hospitals countrywide was needed. “I know some anaesthesists volunteered right in the first hours of the tragedy. I saw with my own eyes: an anaesthesist from Fundeni Institute helped his colleagues form the Hospital for Burnt. And there were other doctors, too, from various hospitals. Colleagues from Israel came, as well, to work in some hospitals. If some detaching from other hospitals had been asked for, nobody wouldn’t have refused to come. All colleagues were available. And some really did it.”

As far as the rebukes on the patients’ transfer abroad are concerned, Arafat uneviled this is another lie. “In the beginning, we did not know how many patients we’ll be able to transfer, but we were in the process of assessing the situation, to see what patients can be moved after they are stabilized. It’s obvious we could not move them immediately, in the first stage. Then we started to work bilaterally with our colleagues in Israel, who took some patients, but also we talked to doctors in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands….And we managed to transfer a number of patients. But bilateral talks on transfers began right on the next day after the tragedy.”

He also rejected critics regarding the attempts of covering up some problems:

“If we accuse us, Arafat, Bănicioiu, or professor Lascăr, that we traied to cover up things, that means that all doctors working at the Hospital for Burnt, Universita, Floreasca or Elias…are attacked. All doctors are accused of covering up and not telling the truth.”

Arafat said that in fact the stake is not only attacking him, but the entire emergency system is targeted. “There some interests in this regard (…) coming from the private area (…) There is somebody behind having the interest that doctor Arafat loses his credibility, that his credibility should be destroyed. And, step by step, a part of the population starts losing confidence. For I cannot stand out each time to explain, to fight all that is launching against me. I am trying to answer, but I don’t always have the time. This is the manner of wearing down the credibility of one person, but also of an entire system,” SMURD founder explained.

Foreign doctors’ testimonies

“I visited three hospitals, but I had colleagues form various European countries visiting the patients from the other hospitals (…) I think I’ve seen at least 50 patients during all this time. The level of care has been very good and the level of the medical equipment available has been at the standards that I would expect for this type of burns. In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised that it was enough medical equipment for all these patients. In regard with the quality of the doctors and the care they’ve provided, it was exemplary, without exception and I think it is a great credit to your country and to the quality of medical professionals in Romania,” British Sarah Pape, specialist in plastic surgery and burns.

In his turn, Belgian doctor Serge Jennes, who saw 100 patients admitted to 11 hospitals in Bucharest appreciated that “what Romania has done in Bucharest was impressive, considering such a high number of injured”. Jennes, who is chief of the Center for Burnt in Brussels told an interview to the Department for Emergency Situations that the Romanian authorities’ response was better than what he saw in Belgium or the Netherlands in similar cases in 2001 and 2004. “The medical care was a high-quality one. I was impressed by the work of the doctors at the Care Intensive Unit,” he said.

Romanian doctor Ciprian Isacu, who has been working at the University Hospital Center in Bordeaux, France and who is running the Ward for Burnt said that not even France, which has a tradition in studying and treating burns, couldn’t have managed better the situation in Bucharest. “There is no difference compare to what happens in France. The medical staff involvement was impressive,” Isacu said, as quoted by TVR.

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