Interview with Mieta Hategan

Mieta Hategan, psychiatrist, is director of the Gataia Psychiatric Hospital. The 450-bed hospital lies in a beautiful nature reserve at 60 kilometres from Timisoara.

In the Soros - Amnesty International report about psychiatric institutions, made in the winter of 2003 -2004, Gataia is mentioned as the hospital where patients are suffering from the cold. ‘Soros has established the problem, but it cannot give us financial help to replace our heating system’, Hategan says. That winter seven out of ten pavilions are heated. Patients from the three unheated pavilions are distributed over the heated ones, so that now all rooms are overcrowded. Mieta Hategan, who has a thick bathing wrap over the white coat that all Rumanian doctors wear, shrugs: ‘This is the only solution we have’. In the corridors and on the staircases it is freezing. The therapy rooms are icy as well; they will not be in use again before May.Gataia, connected to the progressive Timisoara University Hospital, is well known in Romania for its cultural atmosphere. It has a library and a small theatre for drama-therapy. Facilities that are lacking in all other psychiatric institutions, but which already for twelve years now can only be used for four months each year because of the heating problems.

Hategan explains how the broken heating system is lodged between two layers of government, neither of which is willing to pay. ‘The Ministry of Health has stopped investing in psychiatric institutions years ago. Being a high security institution, maintenance of our buildings used to fall under the Ministry. Now the local authorities are responsible for us. We still have some patients who have to be watched over, but not sufficient to be considered a high security institution. Local authorities deny responsibility for overdue maintenance. They now tell us to approach the World Bank’.

Mieta Hategan manages to cut the coat according to the cloth, and succeeds in keeping a humane atmosphere. A nurse is keeping a group of warmly clothed mentally handicapped people engaged in weaving and plaiting, with some cheerful background music. It is too cold to work the sewing machines. These mentally handicapped to not belong in this hospital, but there is no other accommodation for them. ‘It is a pity we do not have any activity therapists’, says Hategan. ‘Also we have too few staff members with an education as a psychotherapist’.

Crisis intervention has the highest priority among all that is lacking in the hospital. ‘Often people or their families call us in a situation of crisis: ‘Come quickly, help us.’ We have no staff to go there, yet it should be done. The result is highly stressful and alas accidents do occur sometimes’.

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