Carmen Uscatu and Oana Gheorghiu, founders of the Give Life Association: “We need humanity and empathy. We need people who care and act accordingly. We need you to make a better Romania”

Friday, 26 November 2021

Carmen Uscatu and Oana Gheorghiu represent not only an example of humanity for the members of our society, but also of ambition and dedication to a goal: to help people, adults and children. This interview reveals a small part of the successes and fulfilled dreams of these two Ladies who inspire us every day through what they achieve and urge us not to give up the fight, not to lose our trust, but to stimulate us again and again to break down barriers and create bridges for a better world in Romania.

Carmen Uscatu and Oana Gheorghiu

What should be done, what solution do you see from an organizational point of view, in terms of facts, in order to get out of the current pandemic situation?

Oana Gheorghiu: At this moment, we need courageous, assumed and, perhaps, unpopular decisions and people who can present and assume them in the public space. There are three areas that I think need to be addressed now.

The first is to intensify the vaccination campaign, especially at the level of the vulnerable population through more active involvement of family doctors, by organizing vaccination centers in key points, through a targeted and effective communication, designed in the language of those who fear vaccination. Fear is one of the most difficult feelings to manage – I understand perfectly the people who are afraid of the vaccine, especially if we take into account the wave of misinformation that has been promoted even in the national media. But precisely because there is this wave of misinformation, the communication campaign must be thought of as more targeted, with messages that these people can empathize with, messages that they can understand.

The second is to improve the ability to treat severe and mild cases. It is obvious that state hospitals are suffocating. I saw pictures of patients sitting in chairs in the hallways, with medical staff simply giving up because of fatigue and stress. Ambulances are getting harder and harder to handle thousands of calls. And it’s normal. You can’t inflate the number of ICU beds or the number of treatment beds. Why is there no collaboration with the private sector at this time? To supplement the treatment capacity? Unfortunately, we see that history repeats itself – at Colectiv the private ambulances were not suitable for the needs and even now this solution is not considered.

Another important aspect is the intensification of efforts to manage misinformation. We recently had a case with a project implemented by us, a live on Facebook in which it was falsely communicated that the ICU Piatra Neamț Modular Hospital is empty, while it was full of patients. The live reached tens of thousands of people. Meanwhile, the authorities notified and initiated an action against the person who made this video. But there are hundreds of such cases, many of these people invited to television. I also saw a reaction from the College of Physicians. But I don’t think that’s enough.

The Give Life Association has a rich history of achievements. What do you consider to be the greatest success of the Association?

Carmen Uscatu: It is very difficult to nominate something, because each of the implemented projects has a real impact, it means extra chances for patients, it means decent working conditions for medical staff, it means a step towards changing a mentality based on humility and fear in the medical system. One of the greatest successes may be the fact that over 350,000 people and over 5,600 companies are involved in the #NoiFacemUnSpital initiative – a unique initiative in Romania that will bring a new way of providing medical care to the sick child.

This project is more than a building, more than the equipment it puts there – it is a new approach and a profound change of mentality and habits. Both at our level as a civil society where we see for the first time in 30 years that we can do something in Romania when we align ourselves behind a common dream, and at the level of the medical system where we propose a new way of doing things ( from interaction with the patient, to the training of medical staff and from infrastructure resources to management style).

What are the most important objectives of the Association in the short and medium/long term?

Oana Gheorghiu: In the long run, we remain faithful to the reason why we set up the association – to help adult and pediatric patients and to give extra chances. This means projects with a long-term impact and radical changes in the medical system – whether we are talking about the conditions we create (infrastructure and equipment), opportunities for development and training for health professionals or advocacy initiatives to change unfair laws.

In the short and medium term, we focus on the projects we have in progress: completion of the first building of the #NoiFacemUnSpital initiative, completion of the master plan for the entire medical campus, creation of a plan to move the departments of Marie Curie Hospital to the new building, rethinking the operation of a public hospital in its relationship with CNAS and management style.

We also plan to continue the renovation of the oncology department of Elias Hospital in Bucharest – we still have the first floor to be brought to the same standards as the second floor, which we have already re-compartmented and renovated. The oncology department here is one of the most sought after in the country for the quality of the medical act and the medical team, but the infrastructure is, unfortunately, outdated. We want to provide patients and healthcare professionals with decent treatment conditions for this century. The need is even greater now that cancer patients are among the vulnerable groups to COVID-19.

What resources does the Give Life Association need to achieve its goals?

Carmen Uscatu: People open to the new and the opportunity to change an outdated way of doing medicine in Romania. Courageous people to try, learn, develop, make mistakes and learn from their mistakes to constantly improve the quality of the medical act. We work a lot with external consultants, we collaborate with specialized clinics in Italy, Holland or Ireland and we have internationally renowned specialists, such as Prof. Huq Saiful or Dr. Radu Lupescu eager to share their experience and what they have learned over time. Every meeting with these people is an opportunity to learn from each other, to test, to exchange ideas, to perfect something we do well, to share with someone something that went to us. This openness to learn from each other is quite difficult to find in Romania, where an unreformed education system has not taught us to ask for and accept feedback, to understand that even the greatest teacher always has something to learn from to his students, that outside experts do not come “to teach us that they are smarter”, but to look for opportunities for collaboration and that new ideas and progress are born working together and sharing ideas.

We need patients willing to demand their rights, to provide honest feedback, without fear of consequences and eager to help others in a similar situation. We need humanity and empathy.

We also need people involved to talk about their involvement. We are proud of our donors and supporters and we would be happy for them to do the same, because in this way we can reach as many people as possible and inspire them to get involved. Many times our personal experiences give others the courage to say what they feel or to realize that they are not alone.

And, of course, we need funds to implement projects like the #NoiFacemUnSpital initiative. Donations from individuals can be made on or by SMS to 8864 with the text HOSPITAL.

We need companies that can get involved – There is a tax facility that allows them to redirect 20% of the profit/income tax at no cost to them. It is the money he would give to the state anyway, but in this way he would see exactly what is happening to them. All the details are available on the association’s website https: // It takes three minutes to complete the form, after which the bank transfer is made and ready. You put a meaningful brick.

Where do you get your energy from to move on?

Oana Gheorghiu: It matters a lot that there are two of us, when one of us loses energy, the other takes over or compensates. It matters that we have people who trusted us and our dream from the beginning and who we can call in the most difficult moments for an energy boost and a motivational speech. People like Paula Herlo, Tudor Chirilă and Alex Dima. The trust that the people around give you, even when you don’t have that trust, means a lot.

Personally, I have a special feeling every time I go to the construction site and hear those specific noises and go up to the technical terrace of the new building. I think about where I came from and where this project came from and I have an extraordinary feeling – it is a joy mixed with an enormous responsibility. Know that over 350,000 people support this project and have put their trust in this dream.

We are motivated by the stories of those we interact with, such as the story of Diana, the mother from Bacău who won a lawsuit with the Romanian state because the deadlines specified in Order 50 were not met when her daughter, Andrada, had to go to Italy for treatment – treatment that would have offered her more time to live. Andrada lost the battle with cancer, but Diana chose to move on for all parents who go through similar situations. Her lack of resignation and revolt is something in which we find ourselves and which motivates us.

Many people tried to do well in Romania, but few succeeded. What are the strengths, qualities that you (the founders and the Give Life team) had and maybe others lacked?

Carmen Uscatu: I think there are many initiatives that have had a positive impact in Romania. There are many things that civil society has accomplished in Romania while the state has been, and Give Life is just one example. I believe that perseverance is an asset of ours, the fact that every time someone takes a step back, we take two steps forward. I think it’s our duty not to stop and put pressure to change things – because if you don’t take your fate into your own hands, no one will do that for you.

It also helps us a lot that we are a small team, supported by trusted volunteers, and there is a certain entrepreneurial spirit – we are the people of the facts, we make things happen, we make decisions and we implement them quickly. And we still manage very well to deal with crisis situations, which helped us, for example, a lot in the pandemic – we were among the first to react and offer help where it was needed, in parallel with the habit to work from home, to reorganize as a team.

Another thing I can highlight is the courage to think big – to make big plans, which will have a real impact on a much larger number of people. When we first talked about the Hospital, many told us it was a crazy idea. But I felt that is what Romania needs and I persevered. Gradually, seeing that things started happening, more and more people joined us, and today we have the first building ready and we are working on the master plan for an entire medical campus.

Please tell us about the Give Life team?

Oana Gheorghiu: We are nine people in the Give Life team, but we are lucky to work with reliable collaborators and to have volunteers who help us every time we need it. We are just women, not intentionally, but pure chance. That doesn’t mean we don’t carry boxes or unpack donations. They laugh a lot in our office and work just as hard. My colleagues often say that we have the best job we could have, but one that comes with an enormous responsibility. We are still excited when we see a completed project or when we all gather in front of a computer to read a kind message from a donor or a beneficiary of our projects. We like to take funny pictures, to be serious, but not to take ourselves seriously all the time.

Why do we still pay Health Insurance Contributions if everything we receive from the administrator of our money, the State, is mockery, indifference, incompetence and in the end we get to go to private hospitals, and the least fortunate are being eaten alive, but with the contribution money paid on time, for decades? Maybe the whole health care system should be rethought? What needs to be done from your point of view?

Carmen Uscatu: Our role and that of NGO initiatives is not to take the place of the state. We don’t want that, and it’s not possible. The state has infinitely more resources than we can raise, no matter how many fundraising campaigns we do. But what we can do and what we propose through our projects and, in particular, through the #NoiFacemUnSpital initiative, is to create a model of good practice that can be replicated at national level. And I’m thinking here about the construction and equipment part (real costs, efficiency, top equipment, etc.), but also about the operation part: the conditions created, the development opportunities for the medical staff, the patient-medical relationship, the relationship with the National Health Insurance House, the way in which the efficient management is done and many others. Yes, these things will not change overnight, because they essentially involve a change of mentality and habits, but with this project we cause this change. And it’s up to each of us, all of us who got involved in the #NoiFacemUnSpital initiative, how and when this change will be made. Because this project is ours, everyone’s and reflects our way as a society to relate to the patient and the medical system.

#NoiFacemUnSpital: The first National Children’s Hospital for Cancer, Serious Illness and Trauma is nearing completion. Will it open in December 2021? What are the main figures that characterize this project? How much did it cost? Are there doctors for this hospital, given the human resources crisis we have been going through for many years?

Oana Gheorghiu: #NoiFacemUnSpital means at this moment a building of approx. 12,000 sqm, with 9 levels, raised to the standards of Western Europe and which will be equipped with top equipment (radiotherapy, operating room exclusively made of glass, etc.). In this first building, some of the existing wards will now be moved to Marie Curie Hospital. We estimate that this move will take place in mid-2022 – after completion (and we had some delays due to the pandemic and changes that had to be made along the way) it takes a few months of testing. We are now working on a master plan to transform Marie Curie Hospital into a real medical campus, which involves the construction of a second new building and rethinking the usefulness of the existing one (a building erected in the 1970s).

At the moment, the construction and endowment of the first building is estimated at about 30 million euros. But the project is in a continuous dynamic – it is possible that this amount will be revised according to the needs of the medical staff with the move. The departments that will move here are moving with the existing medical staff. Where there is no medical staff (e.g. Department of Pediatric Radiotherapy) we started a recruitment campaign with Marie Curie Hospital. It is the first department of its kind in a state hospital and we need specialists: radiotherapists, physicists, radiotherapy technicians.

#NoiFacemUnSpital is, however, a long-term project, extremely dynamic. Because it’s not just about construction or equipment. It is about the maintenance of an organism, about constant training, about development opportunities for the medical body, about initiatives to facilitate the experience of patients and their families. We want our donors to stay with us because only once in your life can you say that you have built a hospital and that you put a brick in it every month to maintain it.

Without donors, the Give Life projects could not have existed. What message do you send to those who supported you? And what message do you want to convey to those you want in your team?

Carmen Uscatu: Thanks for your trust. Be proud of your involvement because we are proud of you. Together we manage to do things that would seem impossible, to give extra chances. Together we build and rebuild wards, hospitals, hopes.

Those who are not part of our team so far, we are waiting you on to see what we have done, to read our reports, to see the projects and to decide if they want to put their own brick to our projects. There are things you can do once in a lifetime. A hospital is one of them.


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She started volunteering in her free time, in addition to the Marketing job she had in a multinational. Later, together with Oana Gheorghiu, she founded the Give Life Association, having the idea of radically changing the way children with cancer are treated in Romania. She believes that it is important to have the courage and take charge of your life, otherwise nobody else will do this for you – principle she applies both in Association’s activity and in her own projects.

After leading the operations of a French company in Romania, Oana decided to dedicate herself full-time to social involvement and founded, together with Carmen Uscatu, the Give Life Association. It all started with a request for help that she received in her mailbox. Since then, she has been working with the Association’s team to offer an extra chance to cancer patients in the country. At the same time, she is actively involved in making Romanians responsible for the decisions that influence their future.

About Give Life Association

Since its establishment, the Give Life Association has changed a Ministerial Order, offered support to cancer patients in their relationship with the Authorities, modernized several oncology departments in the country (Brașov, Timișoara, Cluj, Bucharest) and started the largest project of social involvement in recent years: the construction of the First National Children’s Hospital for Cancer, Serious Illness and Trauma. Currently, over 350,000 individuals and over 5,600 companies are part of the #NoiFacemUnSpital community.

The Give Life Association was also actively involved during the coronavirus pandemic, building two modular triage units in Sibiu and Bucharest, the Modular Hospital 1 Elias for patients with COVID-19 (an investment of approx. 2.6 million euros), the Modular Hospital 2 Piatra Neamț (an investment of approx. 2.7 million euros) and supporting with protection equipment and medical equipment over 140 care units, from 102 cities. The Give Life Association managed to distribute a total of 17 tons of protective equipment throughout the country, with the support of its donors and sponsors.

Author: Editor

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