The Shock of a New Father in a Hungarian Hospital

A new father with a premature baby ranted about his experiences in the Hungarian state healthcare system on Twitter. 

These stories are nothing new. This woman lost her mother and only later discovered that she didn’t even get a treatment. We have read countless stories of people dying in overcrowded emergency rooms. The story this young father describes is only surprising for a foreigner.

tweet1 hospital

Bringing your own food, cleaning products, toilet paper and medicine is so natural, only a foreigner could be surprised at it. Not having air-conditioning and the medical staff doing a heroic effort to patch you up with a broken pencil and a sewing needle are so well-known, they are not even worth mentioning in public debate.

A few weeks ago a minor outrage made it into the media. It was not that there was no toilet paper in hospitals – everyone knows that. It was because even the toilet paper vending machine ran empty. And not just any hospital, but the most prestigious university hospital in Budapest.


A vending machine at a Budapest hospital. A toilet roll costs about 70 cents. A diaper more. Patients are only outraged when even the machine runs out. Hospitals have long stopped supplying soap, toilet paper, diapers or even medicine and you are requested to bring your own. Photo:

The satirical joke party taped signs is hospital last week: “Due to recent upgrades in the healthcare system, you can now also bring your own doctor for your surgery.” After all the medicine and the small stuff. And of course a relative that takes care of you because nurses are scarce and monstrously overwhelmed. The last remaining doctors and nurses resign en bloc and force their departments to shut down without personnel. Partly in protest of the unthinkable neglect of the salaries of medical workers, but partly because this is the only way for the last few people to resign. Because any more reduction in their numbers would cause immediate and obvious deaths.

A scandal that disinfectants had to be diluted to last longer has been broken by a resident doctor years ago, but nothing happened about it. Healthcare is not a priority of politics. As any Hungarian can tell you, stadiums are. Because our ruler likes football, and uncounted numbers of stadiums are built on taxpayer money. So whenever the state of healthcare is mentioned, a Hungarian will start talking about football and stadiums. Every time. This is why.

As a weight loss celeb aptly put it: “Hospitals don’t bring the nation together.” Football supposedly does.

tweet2 hospital

Correction: There are dozens of new stadiums, no one knows exactly how many, blighting towns and villages that are often smaller than the stadium itself.

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