Articles From the August 1994 Unification News


IRFF - Bulgarian Hospital Consultants Visit - London on a Bridge-Building Exchange Visit

June 25 to July 5, 1994
by Chris D. Hays-London

On the strength of a British government grant allocating money, IRFF U.K. invited three senior medical consultants from Sofia, Bulgaria, to London, for bridge building with health care professionals in similar fields of practice.

This is the context in the West, they arrived in, as follows:

On a British Airlines flight out of Sofia, Bulgaria, the late morning of June 25, 1994 our three IRFF contacts, the senior medical consultants from two of the bigger hospitals in Sofia, looked on, in amazement, as the air hostess passed out English-language newspapers; no, it wasn't the language that shocked them. It was the headlines that screamed at them.

The inference by the Bulgarian doctors was that in America wild and crazy things go on that are mostly centered on their domestic situation. Notice, they said to me, all the headlines with little international coverage!

Deboarding the plane at Heathrow International Airport just outside London, the doctors' media-instilled perceptions fly in the face of the reality in Bulgaria; like many nations of eastern Europe, one cannot comprehend the real goings on there unless one visits these places.

As we packed the doctors' bags into the taxi en route to the IRFF head office, one of the consultants desired to take a "gut check" of the real-time happenings in Bulgaria; for the reader of this report I summarize it:

The youth of Bulgaria between 15 and 30 years of age are adrift, having few goals in life, not knowing what they want nor how to get there. The economic decline has been very severe. Back in 1989 when reform was sweeping through central and eastern Europe, optimism ruled the land. That has long since dissipated!

Political leaders fight one another in the Parliament daily. Demonstrations by the masses in their tens of thousands, once a thing of the early days of change in 1989 and 1990, are now three times a week. The crowds are the same people more or less who voted in a democratic reform government two years ago. In these two years only one single piece of legislation has passed on the government's privatization bills!

Inflation not indexed to wages has jumped 50% this year alone. The World Bank, the IMF and the PHARE program have promised lots and delivered hardly a thing; more reason for Bulgarians to vote socialist, as they have in the June '94 Parliament elections. Economic blackmail, in the form of the growing Mafia, rules free enterprise now. Yes, there are few rocks of certitude.

GDP is down year-on-year from '89; last year's was -5.0% and so far this year it's -7.7%.

Day two of the consultant doctors' stay in London is taken up by a training and education course, entitled "Developing a Sponsorship Proposal," held on June 27 at an inner London 4-star hotel with 25 other delegates. An all-day seminar focusing on intermediate-level education for Bulgarian medical administrators on how to win resources for their hospitals. The training course also provided a good networking opportunity for our team.

An informative time is had by all, enlightening, some say. It is really so important to create positions of opportunity for others- that's one of the most valuable lessons that True Father gives to us- using opportunities as leverage to do needed things and to meet important people.

Sponsorship is one of the many Western methods that has not caught on in the East; instilling this training in others, especially of Balkan origin, is of a high priority.

Days three, four and five, falling on June 28, 29 and 30, were bridge- building visits to the following:

1) Cancer and Leukemia in childhood unit, Oncologist Hospital, Bristol.

2) Lymphoma and Leukemia Unit, The General Infirmary, Leeds.

3) Great Ormond Street Hospital, sick children's unit, London.

4) Save the Children Fund, East Europe Division, London.

5) Charities Aid Foundation, Tonbridge, Kent.

6) London School of Economics, Center for Voluntary Organization, London.

7) St. Thomas's Hospital, hematology unit, London.

But for all the kudos and bravado these visits create-and they do open up supply lines, that's for sure-omnipresent danger lurks around every corner. While international contact-making is a vital part of bridge- building, the ills of many a society in these regions are so great that one only scratches the surface.

In the central and eastern regions, death rates soar while birthrates plummet, creating an unprecedented crisis. Hospital care and aftercare is so rudimentary in Sofia, Plovdiv and Bougas that given the massive capacity these wards in hospitals carry, doctors and nurses play God. Have you ever played God? It's interesting.... First, one gets to see "who" is seen, "when" and "where". Then with "whatever" equipment is on hand, on the given day; sometimes it's so old and dirty, nurses must search high and low in the huge hospitals to clean instruments. That usually takes 30 minutes.

Air quality around the capital is so bad-so thick!-children in orphanages must wear masks when they are outside playing! Toxic waste is so bad that chemical fills lie open for teenagers to rummage through.

The drop in population and the average life span for men and women is catastrophic. It's like a war! Life expectancy in the U.S. for men is now rated at 75.7 years while in both Bulgaria and Romania men can look forward to living a mere 64.4 years. Public decay rules the land and popular culture, mostly from America, converts many.

July 1 and 2 were taken up by another training session, Supervisory and Managerial Skills-Building for Senior Professionals. You see, Britain is preponderantly individualist, rather than communitarian. An individualism that applauds self-expression and self-display. Nevertheless, skills honed and know-how acquired as an advanced nation can serve east European administrators well.

The summary of the two-day Supervisory and Management course is as follows:

With the downsizing of voluntary-sector and national health organizations, globally, new paradigms have been forced to the front. Information technology and the coming of the age of the information highway provided possibilities to contract out service, traditionally run by health care providers and/or charities. This then frees up staff, resources and time. But it's also a matter of bringing people up to speed in both skills-set and knowledge base creating shared values among staffers of various firms.

There is a need for supervision of junior doctors to refine the measurable aims: walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk of coherence. But there are managerial problems as a result of this downsizing over the last five to six years. What's soft? What's hard? How does one quantify things? Where is the verifiable data?

In the administration of supervision and management, one needs to compete with the good things. Strategic philanthropy is part of the answer-but is it a one-way street? What about companies? Shareholders of corporations?

The final days of July 3 and 4 were spent as a wandering, nomadic tourist, soaking in the sights of London, Windsor, Canterbury and Nottingham.

It was an historic visit, from the point of view of Bulgarian senior medical practitioners. Just to travel internationally, to greet, meet and have hard dialogue with one's counterparts in the West was reason enough to declare a holiday.

But many a chilling tale was spun by the doctors, informing their Western colleagues of the illnesses that ravage the spirit in the East. These problems have been piling up for the last 45 to 50 years and foretell a grim scenario of real-time life; so far removed from the O.J. Simpson mania in the States!

Unemployment runs at between 22% and 31% in Bulgaria. Imagine that. It's just 9.7 in Britain and 6.7 in the States. Vague aches and pains, to depression, panic attacks, accidental trauma, suicide. Heart attacks and strokes and rising each year in every central and eastern European country.

Nevertheless, there is hope so long as government agencies in Britain, America and the rest of western Europe seize the day and win resources for the poor institutions and poor folk of the East. That's what this particular bridge-building exchange visit was all about: creating positions of opportunities.

Using that as leverage to do needed work, today-that's what it's all about. And IRFF U.K. will continue to progress and partner with others to solve the ills whereof we have here spoken. Together, the human condition of each of us, as global citizens, really can change.

Chris D. Hays is the director of IRFF U.K.


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