Night Shift - A return to Romania
Bucharest, Romania.
Zandra Corbes - ZWN Special Correspondent
Posted: September, 1st. 2007 Bookmark and Share
Archive reports relating to this story:
Final Exit - Part one
Final Exit - Part Two

In July, ZWN went undercover to expose the behind locked doors activities of an un-named Romanian quarantine hospital. The article, 'Final Exit' won the prestigious 2007 Eu. Excellence in Journalism award.

Following the 'Final Exit' report, the eyes of the world bore down on the facility. Many of the practices once reported, are no longer permitted.

ZWN returns to find out the implications of the report and what the hospital staff are now doing to cope with an ever growing plague with even less resources at their disposal.

The un-named reporter who spent 6 weeks undercover as an orderly declined to return for this follow up article. So we assigned ZWN special correspondent Zandra Corbes. Zandra is best know for her coverage of the Haiti crisis and her own dramatic rescue after her helicopter crashed in infested territory.


Reception:
The woman whom my guide, Bogdan and I met at the front desk was an American lady. She seemed to be in her mid-forties, although I suspect the time she had spent here aged her somewhat. She introduced herself as Anne. An occasional sigh, punctuating her conversation would betray her generally upbeat manner.

She told us how since ZWN's report exposing the horrific treatment of quarantine patients, a political firestorm had ensued, virtually closing the state run facility down. Since then, in an effort to appease global criticism, the government had reopened it, removing many of the controversial methods that spurred condemnation.

"The collar's gone" said Anne matter of factly. 'The Collar' (see below) was a barbaric but effective method of decapitating the undead


Gurney with restraints.

The infamous 'Collar'

"Yes" said Anne. The 'Collar' went, along with half the staff. The government was so concerned with placating the critics, they removed all our resources but didn't give us any alternatives."

I was taken aback by Annes open criticism of her employers. I mentioned this to her. "What am I afraid of? I'm working in a pit of horror and filth. I am over stressed and under paid. Everyday my life is in danger. What will they do? who else will work here?"

Just exactly what would compel a trained American nurse to be doing this was never elaborated on. But I suspect the answer was in her last comment - "who else will work here?"

Armed:
We asked to be granted access to the other levels of the hospital. There were six in all. "You can go but I have to advise you, we have no security." said Anne. She gestured with a shrug of disbelief. "Our security company quit the contract last week. Two of their people were killed. We had an outbreak. They wont be coming back. Let me get Alin." When Alin arrived, we were surprised to see a somewhat laid back older retiree. Tall, and gentle in his manor. Alin was a volunteer. A handyman of sorts who spoke excellent English.

"Are either of you armed?" he said. We replied that the government would not allow us to carry arms into the country, even during this crisis. He raised an eyebrow, lifted a small toolbox onto the counter. Opening it he said "Ok, well.... here's a screwdriver." He gestured to me to take it. He then gave Bogdan a small crowbar and said triumphantly "That's a good one. It comes in handy."

Plea for help:
One of the saddest, most chilling things I will ever remember, was passing by a closed door. A voice was calling out. A man. Frightened. He was asking for assistance in English. He sounded educated and scared. "Hello, Nurse. Can I have some medicine please?" It was a simple thing. Something that could easily get lost amongst the general malaise and despair of this place. But it seemed to resonate throughout the wards. This poor man, despite everything, still believed he was going to get some treatment. Though he was shouting, he remained polite in his request. As though it had taken all this indignation to push him to the point of actually raising his voice. There was no nurse of course. Not on the entire ward.

The last nurse to remain was Anne. She was also the receptionist, the orderly, the anesthetist and the assistant coroner. Anne thinks that there are perhaps three doctors left - Perhaps. One has not reported in for three days. He may not be coming back.

I ask Alin why they keep bringing patients here if the facility is almost abandoned. "Where else would they bring them? there is no where else within a hundred miles of here." He remarks.

Escapee:
We reach the fourth floor. Via the stairs. "The service elevator is still working but the regular ones are not." explained Alin between constant breaks to rest his legs. "I think the stairs are best. If there is an escapee you can hear them on the stairs. If you are in an elevator, the doors open, woosh, there they are. You are dead."

The fourth floor used to house the confirmed cases. The holding cages have gone now. But the gurneys remain. We pass two corridors leading to hospital wards overcrowded with 'patients' secured onto rows of dirty and bloodied gurneys.

Alin takes out a small firearm from his pocket. He is aware that its appearance has our concern. " A small boy escaped today. He was about to expire in a few hours. But he woke up. The medication we give them to suppress them doesn't work in the final stages. Their nervous system is breaking down or something. You should have Anne explain it to you. She understands it better than me. Anyway, some of them wake up. They panic. Try to get out of the gurney. This little boy was able to slip his small hands out of the restraints." Alin looked up and down the corridor. "He's around here somewhere. He's probably fully reanimated by now." He gestures to the small fire arm in his hand. "This is mine. I only have eight bullets left." Anne has one too. But it's almost empty."

I clutch my screwdriver.

The killing floor:
We stay throughout the day. walking the wards. They allow us'access all areas' except the sixth floor. This is the 'killing floor'. I have not embellished the name for journalistic impact. It really is known as the 'killing floor.' It's the final destination for mortosis victims. Once they reach confirmed reanimation, remaining staff wheel the gurneys into the service elevator. They then take them to the sixth floor where they are re-killed. Neither Anne nor Alin would elaborate on the methods used to dispose of them. "Last time the whole world criticized us for our methods. Now look at us." said Alin bitterly. "Are things better now? bureaucracy. That's all it is."

As we prepared to leave. We saw two men in blood stained scrubs wheeling a thrashing and moaning man harnessed to a gurney. They rushed him to the service elevator. "Is that one? " I said to Alin. He confirmed that it was. I could not help but notice the two chilling items hanging from the edge of the gurney. One was a full acrylic face mask, the other was a baseball bat, swinging ominously as they disappeared behind the elevator doors.

Zandra Corbes - ZWN Special Correspond ant

As a journalistic coda to this report, I tried to contact the hospital two weeks after returning to the United States. I was unable to. Following further investigation, it unfolded that the hospital had permanently closed now due to 'uncontrollable infestation of mortosis.'

I have been unsuccessful in attempts to track down either Anne or Alin.

Archive reports relating to this story:
Final Exit - Part one
Final Exit - Part Two
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