SVT is at it again this time with the case of Stella Reziman, a beggar in Malmö originating from Arad, Romania, who allegedly has 8 children and grandchildren back home, one of them suffering from leukemia. If one is to believe the SVT report, poor Stella is doomed in Romania because there is no welfare and if she wasnt begging in Sweden, her little grandchild would die.
The problem with this narrative is that it is just not true. Or, at best, its just partially true, in the sense that Stella plays a much bigger role in her own destiny than the SVT report leads us to believe.
Given that she talks about the individual suffering from leukemia in terms such as that little kid and she says that he needs medicines in order to survive we are to presume that she is talking about a minor child with an accentuated degree of disability. So let us look at the two Romanian laws that are governing the status of people with disabilities in that country: namely the Law no. 448 from 2006 and the Order of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Equality of Opportunity published in the Official Journal of Law no. 885 from December 27, 2007.
The Law no. 448/2006 is almost entirely dedicated to listing the entitlements and benefits awarded to people with disabilities with a strong emphasis on minors. While the full text is long, it is worth noting the following paragraphs:
(1) Regarding ensuring the assistance for recovering and rehabilitating people with disabilities, they are entitled to:
a) free medical devices
b) free housing and food, including for the person accompanying the minor with disabilities
(2) In maximum 30 days from when the documents attesting the disabilities have been received by the State authorities, the State is obliged to pay for every single medical device that was awarded to the individual with disabilities.
(3) The price for the products used under (1a) is entirely paid by the local authorities in the county where the individual resides.
(1) The adult person which has under her guidance and support a child with a form of disability is entitled to the following rights:
a) Vacation and payment for raising a child with disability, or an extra monthly stimulant in case the person refuses the vacation, until the child gets to the age of 3.
b) Vacation and payment for raising a child with disability in of 110 when the child is between the ages of 3 and 7.
c) Reduced working schedule to only 4 hours per day for the parent which cares for the child with disability until the child is 18
d) Medical vacation every time the parent needs it to care for the child in instances when the child needs hospitalization, treatment abroad, rehabilitation programs and other instances until the child is 18;
e) Extra payment of 110/month for the child with disability whose parents have no income until the child is 3.
f) Extra payment of 90/month for the child with disability whose parents have no income when the child is between the ages of 3 and 7.
g) Extra payment of 90/month for the parent who has no income until the child is 3 and then the payment is reduced to 40/month until the child is 7.
h) Extra monthly payment that is 50% higher than the one awarded to foster parents.
(5) During the time parent receive the entitlements described at (1b), the other children the parent has under care and education, is also entitled to the rights from the Law no.148/2005 regarding the support of the family and raising children.
(7) The amount of the entitlements stated at (1) and (2) are annually updated to keep up with inflation and the cost of living.
(1) During the time one benefits from the payment described in Article 12 (1b), the individual is also insured a contribution of what amounts to twice the national minimum wage guaranteed to the National Pension fund to compensate their lack of work.
The law is much more voluminous and elaborate, but the long story short is that having a minor child with disabilities in the home gets one roughly 350/month in cash (usually more), totally free healthcare (even in private clinics), guaranteed pension, free transportation with all public means of transport of surface (trains, busses, trams, trolleybuses) in the entire country, scholarship until the age of 26 (provided that the minor goes to school) and a few other smaller benefits such as 50% price reduction for all medicines that anyone in the direct family needs to buy and a few others.
That may not seem like a lot, but the average net wage (after taxes) in Arad is also around 350/month. And the average person with no disabilities doesnt get free scholarships for all their children, free care in private clinics or free transportation.
According to the Order of the Ministry of Labour, leukemia that requires constant treatment and monitoring, as Ms. Stella describes, entitles the child and his parents to the entire above list of benefits.
All Ms. Stella has to do is go to any hospital and mention this and they will send her to the General Directorate of Child Protective Services and Social Assistance which in Arad is located on the December 1st street, no.14. Once she gets there, she will get free legal assistance, her child will be evaluated by a panel of medical experts and she and the child will start getting the aforementioned benefits in less than a month.
And she doesnt even have to spend money for that. She can use the free ambulance to get to the hospital and then she has to walk a few hundred meters to get to the Directorate.
Also, if the child is old enough and responsive to treatment, the child has a good chance to qualify for bone marrow transplant a surgery that cures leukemia. Romania has three hospitals that are accredited to conduct such a surgery and all three are obliged to do it for free for Stellas child. These are the Fundeni Center of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation (Bucharest), the Târgu Mure Emergency Clinical County Hospital Clinical Department of Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation and the Timioara Louis urcanu Emergency Clinical Hospital for Children.
The clinic in Târgu Mure is by far the best since it also has a research centre with doctors from Vienna or Italy going there and conducting state-of-the-art care and research into that clinic. And remember neither she, nor the child have to pay for the transportation to get there, nor for any of the services.
But if for some reason the care offered in the Romanian clinics is deemed not-good-enough for Stellas child, there is also the E112 form. The E112 form is an instrument through which the Romanian government pays for her child to get treatment for leukemia in any clinic in the European Union (including private ones). All she has to do is to fill in the form and wait for roughly 90 days. Leukemia cases have never been rejected so far from E112 applications.
Now, having reviewed the law and the real situation in Romania, one can only conclude that either Stella Reziman is lying, or the SVT report left out portions of the story to get a better emotional effect.
Or maybe Stella isnt lying, and she really doesnt get any benefits, but she only has herself to blame for that since all she had to do was to ask for them and fill in a few forms. Just like her adult children have themselves to blame for not working. But regardless of that, SVT is to blame for not asking for the facts. Fact checking used to be a requirement in journalism, but apparently nowadays thats no longer necessary.
No, Romania is not a humanitarian super power like Sweden, and it probably never will be. The welfare system in Romania is designed to help people get out of being on welfare, not for supporting them indefinitely into non-work. Whether thats a good thing or not is a topic for another time. But to assert that there is no public help for people like Stella and her child with leukemia is nothing but a bald-faced lie.
SVT, as a public service broadcaster, has a responsibility to inform the audience correctly, a responsibility which it has yet again failed to fulfill.
3. Average wage in Arad: http://www.actualitati-arad.ro/aradul-este-pe-locul-12-la-salarii-anul-2014/
4. Order of the ministry of labour: http://www.mmuncii.ro/pub/imagemanager/images/file/Legislatie/ORDINE/O762-1992-2007.pdf
5. Directorate of Child Protective Services contact: http://www.dgaspc-arad.ro/prezentare/contact
Lucian Vâlsan hosts the radio program A Voice for Men Radio where he is in charge of European news. Hes a blogger and a euro skeptic and resides in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.