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Taking care of business

Private medicine in Romania is fighting fit due to an ailing state sector and a class of super-rich, while Centrul Medical Unirea’s Wargha Enayati holding a lead in corporate healthcare. Michael Bird reports
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Executives stressed with nonsensical real estate prices, hundred-dollar barrels of oil and the threat of market collapse may want to check up every aspect of their mental and physical health to test how boom-and-bust is affecting their mind and body.
To put bosses at ease, Wargha Enayati, director general of leading private medical practice Centrul Medical Unirea, is launching this month a screening programme from Germany in his new six-floor practice in Baneasa.
This aims to be the full work-out for the manager under pressure from the vicissitudes of leading a company in an emerging market. The patient comes to the clinic for up to eight hours, where he or she undergoes a complete body and mind test from urine to heart and head, detecting everything from cancer to nutrition levels. A report on their health is then ready the next day.
The full whack comes at a high cost – but this is cheaper and more convenient than flying out to Vienna or Berne. “The management screening programme hasn’t so far existed in Romania,” says Enayati. “It will not be for all.”
This is part of CMU’s colossal new 12 million Euro private medical empire near Baneasa Airport on Boulevard Ion Ionescu de la Brad. Now open is the diagnostic centre, which Enayati claims is the largest in Romania. Next door a six floor in-patient gynecological and obstetric hospital is under construction.
'1') { require('php/art_auth.inc'); } ?> Since 1995, CMU has opened eight clinics in Bucharest, including a small in-patient surgery near Arcul de Triumf. Nationwide expansion is now on the cards. Recently the company bought out the Centrul Medical Motilor in Cluj-Napoca and Enayati says his company will make four other acquisitions of private medical practices outside of Bucharest this year. CMU is also opening a children’s clinic on the ground floor of the Opera Center near Eroilor Metro Station.
This is part of a boom in private medical services in the last 13 years in Romania.
“In eastern Europe private healthcare has not developed at a fast rate, but the two countries where the private health sector is quite well developed are Poland and Romania.” says Enayati. “The reason is that the state health system in these two countries was and is in such a bad state, so private healthcare had the opportunity to grow.”
In Romania, state healthcare suffers from institutionalised bribery and inconsistent funding which sees some hospitals endowed with half-a-million-Euro machines which no one knows how to use, while others are bereft of basic facilities. Enayati has worked in the public sector in Romania and sees a massive problem in the attitude of doctors.
“They are underpaid, but it is not only the fact that they are underpaid, there is a lack of being a human being,” he says. “Human behaviour in medicine has to be developed.”
The medical boss sees few chances in change in the state healthcare system in the next decade. “There is enough space for the private healthcare system to develop quite considerably,” he adds.
But salary expectations among healthcare workers in Romania are rising enormously, while doctors are also leaving in massive numbers to plug the shortage in the west – a phenomenon affecting both Romania’s private and public sectors.
“We lose doctors,” says Enayati. “Around 50 per cent of doctors emigrating choose to go to France.” Meanwhile the nurses leave for Italy. “The exodus of nurses to Italy is calming down, but the emigration of doctors is continuing.”
Financially, Romania’s private healthcare system cannot compare with western Europe. Consultation costs for private medical practices a third of the cost in Germany, while the expense of the equipment is the same.
But not everyone is fleeing Romania. CMU has around ten repatriated doctors, many of whom returned because of an emotional bond with the country, their family or the need to be in a familiar environment. “They wanted to have a professional career and then come back. The possibilities here are emerging.”

Who is Wargha Enayati?

Wargha Enayati first came to Romania from Germany in 1983 to study the life of Queen Marie (1875 - 1938), wife of Romania’s King Ferdinand and grand-daughter of the UK’s Queen Victoria. Like Enayati, she was a member of the community-based faith known as Baha’i, which started 150 years ago in what is nowadays Iran. In 1926 Marie was given a book on the religion by an American friend. “She read it all night and then the next morning stated: this is my belief,” says Enayati. Marie was seduced by the “glorious, peace-bringing and love-creating” words of the faith, which now claims around five million believers in its “unity of mankind” philosophy. But she was born into the Church of England and had to, officially, become a Romanian Orthodox, so Baha’i was a personal creed.
Returning in 1995 with qualifications as a specialist in cardiology, Enayati became physician to the German Embassy in Bucharest and, as more embassies cried out for a decent medical service, began to expand his Centrul Medical Unirea (CMU) surgery. Expat demand kept increasing and a new class of the local affluent also turned on to the service quality in the eight clinics. CMU now claims to be the biggest provider of medical care for corporates in Romania, with 50,000 members.
By 2006, CMU’s dynamic growth caught the eye of investors and, in February 2007, Enayati sold 49 per cent of the company to British investment fund 3i, helping the group raise more capital for its current expansion. For the moment, Enayti remains with a majority stake.
“It could happen that if a strategic partner comes, I could think of selling a part of it,” he adds. This would probably be a large private medical company. Last year the company posted an eight million Euro turnover and this year Enayati predicts an increase to 11 million Euro.

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