With an experience of more than 20 years in the Romanian and international business environment, Zahal Levy gave an interview to Christine Bleotu from Radio Romania International, talking, among other things, about the reasons why he chose Romania and about the public and the private sectors of the health system.
1. Christine Bleotu: Doctor Honoris Causa of "Aurel Vlaicu" University of Arad, Knight of the Order of Malta, President of MediHelp International - the leading provider of private health insurance with international coverage in Central and Eastern Europe, with offices in Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Bulgaria, Zahal Levy came from Israel and settled in Romania more than 20 years ago. At the same time, he started his business here, in a gray yet full of possibilities period in Romania's history, as he recalls.
Zahal Levy: I was at a crossroads in my professional life and I wanted to try something new in a country that seemed very promising, with an expanding market and where I had the chance to develop with the economy. Romania seemed the safest choice, a country with many intelligent people, with a high level of education and a huge potential for growth. Fortunately, it seems I was right, that is exactly what happened. If I had to compare today’s Romania with how things were in the early 90's, there has been an incredible change, but I'm afraid that the Romanians do not perceive it and do not appreciate it to its full extent.
2. Christine Bleotu: What would be the most significant changes in Zahal Levy's opinion?
Zahal Levy: Everything has been rebuilt. The country's situation has improved; there are still obstacles and challenges, but it is immeasurably better. I remember that the first salary I paid to the employees was in cash that we had to carry in a briefcase from the bank. We spent half a day counting the wages. There were no debit or credit cards or machines to count money, but now there is a functional and competitive banking system, good restaurants, the renovated Opera House, there are theaters and malls for shopping. There is still inefficiency and corruption, but compared to the rest of Eastern Europe, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
3. Christine Bleotu: Throughout his professional activity in Romania, Zahal Levy has been involved in the building of 4 hospitals and medical centers in Constanța, Arad, and Petroșani. In Bucharest, at Fundeni Hospital, he has contributed to the expansion of a diagnostic center. The doctors he worked with became close friends.
Zahal Levy: I have a very good opinion of the medical staff here, but I'm sorry for them because they have to earn their living and supplement their income by receiving envelopes or cash from patients. Doctors need to be very well paid here and not to be forced to think about other ways of earning money. Their education is impeccable, and I think they are heroes. I have become friends with many doctors in Romania, some of which have stayed and have endured many difficulties without going to Germany or France or Italy where they are well received. It's not just the doctors, but also the nurses. They are well received abroad because they are very well trained, have experience and sometimes accept to work for less money than others. Thus, they leave and we lose them.
4. Christine Bleotu: Having a deep understanding of the Romanian medical system, Zahal Levy has his own opinions on how it could be developed, about private health insurance, but also about the Romanians' reluctance to resort to them.
Zahal Levy: It’s about taking responsibility for your own health. In Romania, there is still a perception that the government has to deal with your health, to take care of you, but the medical environment in Romania has lost its direction and the Romanian government, I do not know why, refuses to say that it doesn't have enough money to cover the growing need in medical services. The solution would be to promote the private medical sector which can only be supported by an effective private insurance system.
Christine Bleotu: Although Romanian legislation permits the coexistence of the public health insurance system with the private one, only about 4% of Romanians resort to the latter, either by paying insurance or by subscribing to clinics or private hospitals.