Interview with Pompilea Dehelean

Pompilea Dehelean is professor of psychiatry and vice-Rector of the Timisoara University of Medicine. As a girl she wanted to become an ophthalmologist, just like her father, but in 1962 she started to study psychiatry since at that time there was no place at the institute of ophthalmology.

´I’ve never regretted my choice’, she says. ´With several patients I have a very strong relationship. I like to coach people and to discuss their illness with them. Psychiatric patients are often poor and find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Psychiatrists are held in less esteem than other medical specialists’. What about the status of psychiatry in the university curriculum? ´It’s not so bad’, says Delehean. ´We have three psychiatrists as Vice Rectors, in Timisoara, in Craiova and in Iasi. That implies the profession really is considered important’.

As to legislation, there the situation is not bad either. ´There is a new law regulating patients rights. Every patient can read what his rights and obligations are. This development inspires one to optimism’, she says.

Only after more insistence Dehelean tells what makes the professional situation painful: most improvements made possible by old and new laws come to nothing because the authorities endow psychiatry with very little money. ´Our salaries are ridiculous. We do not get any pay increases, only an extra allowance for dangerous work. Doctors in Rumania have a reputation of accepting money, but I can assure you that in our case the opposite is true. We give money to several of our patients, just because they have nothing to eat. Sometimes I even pay medical insurance for a patient. For one month, to bridge a gap - of course you cannot keep that up permanently. Benefits are much to low, if patients do not have a family to take care of them they are reduced to dire poverty’.

Many (former) psychiatric patients are unemployed, whereas work would be very beneficial to them. Dehelean: ´We already have a law obliging employers to hire former psychiatric patients, but enterprises ignore this law completely. Yet it would be very important for a patient’s rehabilitation to find a job’. At Timisoara University Hospital and at Gataia, the institution 60 kilometers away in the forest, the possibility to work inside the institution has always been considered important for patients. They started early with ergotherapy, and continued it during the whole period of communist domination.

Pompilea Dehelean thanks her luck in working at Gataia as a young psychiatrist, under the wings of professor Eduard Pamfil. Just like her colleague Mircea Lazarescu, professor and director of Timisoara Psychiatric Hospital, she highly appreciates the special talent their tutor showed in keeping the dictatorship at bay. The progressive position of Timisoara in Romanian psychiatry is founded on Pamfil’s legacy.



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