This week I was in Bucharest to launch the Romanian ‘Fit for Work’ report. The setting for the launch was the incredible Parliamentary Palace, second only to the Pentagon in size. It dominates the south-western part of the city and many houses, churches and a football stadium were demolished to make way for it and surrounding government buildings.
The launch itself was attended by many important Romanian stakeholders, and was kindly co-hosted by the Romanian League Against Rheumatism. In my presentation of the findings from our Romanian research I was able to put the prevalence of MSDs in Romanian workers in a wider EU context and to highlight the need for more national co-ordination of services for Romanians with MSDs. By EU standards, for example, Romanian workers report a higher than average amount of work-related back problems. Our research suggests that, in part, this may be due to poor workplace training on lifting and manual handling in some industries, to differences in healthcare access and occupational ‘mix’ in urban and rural communities. We also highlighted what experts suggested to us is likely to be significant under-reporting of some MSDs by Romanian workers. For example, although official statistics suggest that about 140,000 Romanians have Rheumatoid Arthritis, this is almost certainly an under-estimate resulting from stigma and from a general unwillingness to admit to having the condition to employers and colleagues, and the perceived high cost of visiting a doctor.
The Romanian healthcare and welfare systems have been undergoing reforms in recent years and these have not yet allowed the kinds of co-ordination needed to institutionalise principles such as early diagnosis and treatment, and the notion that job retention and return to work among people with long-term health conditions have both economic and social benefits. I argued that a National Plan for MSDs would go a long way towards helping all Romanian stakeholders (including GPs and employers) focus their efforts on maximising labour market participation among workers with MSDs. Already it seems possible that a Fit for Work Coalition will be launched in Romania in the autumn of 2011 and that it will focus on taking forward many of the recommendations of our report. We will monitor its progress with interest, and support its work where we can.
There were other presentations at the event, each highlighting skilfully and persuasively the need to prioritise MSDs in Romania. Among the other speakers were Dr Catalin Codreanu, President of the Romanian League Against Rheumatism, Professor Adrian Streinu Cercel, State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Professor Ruxandra Ionescu, Romanian Rheumatology Society and Mr David Magnusson of the Swedish Rheumatism Association.
Having spent some time talking to people in Bucharest this week, it has been fascinating to reflect on how the issues raised by the Fit for Work research resonate differently in some of the former Communist countries which we have recently welcomed into the EU, compared with some of the Northern European countries, for example. Chief among these are the very marked differences in access to healthcare (especially specialist care) between urban and rural communities. In addition, we have also noticed that – until recently – it was normal for people of working age with long-term health conditions to leave work completely. We have also found more reluctance than in Northern Europe to acknowledge and embrace the importance of common mental health problems among those with MSDs. Awareness of all of these issues in improving and I very much hope that the Fit for Work initiative will play its part in improving the ability of workers with MSDs to have full and fulfilling working lives.
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 7:58 am and is filed under EULAR, Europe, Health Policy, Labour policy, Musculoskeletal Disorders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.