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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
  • Language:English
  • Pages:45
  • eBook ISBN:9780985869342

Barefoot Doctors

Healthcare Disaster in Communist Romania

by Aurel Emilian Mircea, M.D. View author's profile page

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This series of six short stories exposes the healthcare disaster in communist Romania after the Second World War. Newly graduated physicians were forced to work in remote villages for up to three years, without any technology support. With one stethoscope and no hope, they had to walk barefoot to save their only pair of urban shoes, hence their nickname of Barefoot Doctors.The greatest majority of rural communities during the Cold War had no electricity, no modern communication or transportation. Primary care physicians were left to fend for themselves with primitive equipment and poor remuneration.
After the Second World War and the occupation of Eastern Europe by the Red Army, the new Romanian communist regime ordered every medical graduate to serve in a remote village for a minimum of three years. No one had a choice but to comply with the new, draconic law. Failure to do so would have translated into three years in forced labor camps and the suspension of one’s doctorate degree. Subsequently, they traveled by train, by bus, by donkey cart and the last mile on foot to serve in their assigned village. Without electricity or good communication, physicians had to fend for themselves and in many cases, provide their own medical tools. Since the average pair of shoes cost more than one month’s salary, poor doctors emulated the locals and walked barefooted. Many blisters later, they had gotten used to it. However, during the cold months, they had to wear the traditional footwear of the peasantry known as opinci. Crafted from pigskin, it fared much better in the thick mud and heavy snow, than any other expensive, urban shoes. Thus, it did not take too long for their patients to nick name them the Barefoot Doctor.
About the author
Aurel Emilian Mircea, M.D. was born in Romania, where he grew up during the Great War and the ensuing Cold War. Throughout his medical school and beyond, he played trumpet with well-known dance bands in Bucharest. After his emigration, he practiced medicine in Poland, the Republic of South Africa and USA. In his later years he wrote “Let Freedom Ring,” a trilogy of historical novels depicting life under the communist tyranny behind the Iron Curtain.
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