She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “Considering the disastrous situation of care when I first started working here, we have made progress and to me the future looks optimistic.”
Erzsebet Turos – Romania
She is working in the Psychiatric Hospital Borsa.
Erzsebet Turos has worked as a general practitioner in a psychiatric hospital in Borsa in Cluj county, Romania, for several years. When Dr. Turos arrived, the hospital was pure horror and passive euthanasia was repeatedly taking place. Dr. Turos is highly appreciated by the 230 patients for her care and help. She has instituted occupational therapy and social activities where before there were none. Since December 2002, she has been cooperating with the German association Beclean e.V, which was founded by the staff of a psychiatric hospital in southern Germany to provide help to Romania.Erzsebet Turos has been working in the psychiatric hospital in Borsa for the past nine years. When she started to work, there were 215 chronic psychiatric patients with different diagnoses: schizophrenia, alcoholism, epilepsy and dementia. For these patients there were only two doctors: a psychiatrist who is also the general director of the hospital and another general physician, a woman who left the hospital shortly after Dr. Turos arrived. Since then, no other physician has come to work in Borsa.
The hospital is in an old castle, which belonged before the Communist era to a family of barons. It is the only chronic psychiatric hospital in Cluj county.
The situation of the building at that time was terrible and it still is today. Although the building needs be renovated completely both inside and out, this is not permitted as it is an historical monument. There are several large unhealthy rooms with many beds (15 to 20 in a room), without their own bathrooms. This forces the patients to live together, without privacy, resulting in daily arguments. “When I started to work here, I was very touched by the situation of Borsa: disastrous rooms and bad smell. However, I felt sympathy for the patients, so I focused on what I had to do. Even today, it is very difficult to work in these conditions,” says Dr. Turos.
Borsa is a small village, and like most of the Romanian villages, it has a very poor infrastructure. There is no functioning water system. And it is 100 percent dependent on rain water. In these conditions it is very difficult to maintain hygiene. Scabies and lice are common,
Borsa is also very isolated, in every sense of the word. The distance to the closest city (Cluj-Napoca) is only 45 km but it is on a secondary county road, which is very bad. “All these issues together,” says Dr. Turos, “are the reason why no new doctors have come to work in Borsa.” The employees who take care for the patients in these remotely situated hospitals do not have any formal education and are also not assessed for their own abilities to work with mentally ill patients. After a few years of practice, many suffer from burn out.
Since December 2002, Dr. Turos has been cooperating with the German organization Beclean e.V, which was founded by the staff of a psychiatric asylum hospital in southern Germany, to provide help to Romania. The website of the organization, http://www.beclean-ev.org, displays photos and articles about and from Borsa.
Dr. Turos says: “In September 2002, a group of German psychiatrists from Ravensburg (led by Prof. Dr. Paul-Otto Schmidt-Michel) visited Borsa. They were very impressed with our situation and tried to help us. In December 2002, they came back with the journalist Brigitte Hürlimann and the photographer Peter Dammann. They published an article trying to show to the world our sad reality in the newspaper, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, in March 2003 and on the websites, www.beclean-ev.org and www.zfp-web.de.
“After this visit, our German friends started a project to provide humanitarian help, including improvement of hygienic conditions, food and clothing and help in renovation of the buildings. The project also promoted the exchange of experiences between Romanian and German employees and laid the foundations to provide occupational therapy.
“In the spirit of this project, in February 2003, I got the go ahead from my director Dr. Ilea to start organizing occupational therapy activities in the hospital. At first, we started by making colored pearls with the patients. This activity is being continued under the direction of a nurse, Mrs. Maria Gavrea. In May 2003, I invited an artist, Forro Agnes, who came twice per week to carry out artistic activities together with the patients. In September of that year, we inaugurated a third occupational therapy room for those who enjoyed working with wood or making baskets.
“In April 2003, at Easter, I invited the Orthodox priest from the village. It was the first Easter Mass held in the hospital for the patients. Since then, the priest comes regularly on every Sunday to pray with the patients.
“In the meantime, we have had several German visitors and they in turn have invited me to see their psychiatric clinics. In June 2003, I had the chance to visit the clinics of the Zentrum für Psychiatrie (Center for Psychiatry) in Südwürttemberg which helped me to improve the orientation of our work.
“Shortly after I came back from Ravensburg we had visits from the journalist, Bernard Hügler,from Zfp Bad-Schüssenried who wrote an article, Verborgen und Vergessen (Hidden and forgotten) in Sonntag Aktuell.
“Anja Hellstern, a young student of art therapy from Stuttgart also came and taught our personnel how to use wool in occupational therapy practice. Anja and I became very good friends and in February 2004 she visited us for a month to work with the patients. These visits have shown her the difference between life here in summer and winter. Life in winter is difficult when the temperatures are 20 degrees below zero and the patients have to carry firewood into their rooms. In August 2003, Anja and I took some of the patients on a short trip and tried to sell a few of the things made by them during their occupational therapy work. With Anja, we also organized the first disco in the hospital and a “watermelon action” as the patients are not able to eat fruit regularly. The disco was a big success and we also celebrated for the first time the patients’ birthday. These programs, which the patients enjoy very much, are being continued. They are very important because, in the village, there is no possibility of being involved in social activities as there are no cinemas or theaters.
“Seeing the big success of the disco, I thought that it would be nice to play movies for the patients. Thanks to our generous sponsors, since summer 2004, we have a DVD player and a TV set, and the patients are able to regularly watch movies. I was lucky to be able to work with a group of young, enthusiastic people, who helped me considerably to make these activities successful.”
Dr. Turos has also started occupational therapy courses for nurses from Borsa and another psychiatric hospital. The German organization Beclean e.V. has helped by renewing showers, providing new hospital beds and building a new occupational therapy house.
Until January 2005, Dr. Turos was managing both the occupational therapists and the nurses. Now she has two new colleagues: an occupational therapist and a social assistant. She says, “Considering that two years before there was no organized occupational therapy activity, no social programs for the patients, to me the future looks optimistic.”
In a country where most psychiatric patients have had to endure unbelievably bad conditions, Dr. Turos is helping some of the most vulnerable people in Romanian society. (Read all this on 1000peacewomen).