Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shame on you, Minister Gaydarski!

Regular readers of my blog know that I have a "column" of posts titled "Shame on you, Minister ..." and containing outrageous statements of our ministers about Bulgarian institutions for disabled children such as Mogilino. Because these statements are meant to circulate only in the Bulgarian public space, I think it is good to translate and post them in English, so that everybody could see what sort of people rule Bulgaria and what attitudes they have towards abandoned children and disability. So far, I've had such posts about Ministers Grancharova and Maslarova. This post is devoted to the health minister Radoslav Gaydarski. On Feb. 29, he was presented at the opening of a day care center for disabled children in the town of Vidin and made a statement. I cannot find in the Web the entire statement, so I am translating below excerpts published by Dnevnik and Mediapool.

"A premeditated campaign is being carried out against the Bulgarian people for allegedly having a callous attitude towards disabled children, the poor and the elderly. This doesn't correspond to the truth and aims to discredit our country.
Throughout Bulgaria, there is hardly a city or a region without care homes for the elderly, the disabled and the abandoned children. Of course some care homes are in a better condition and some are in a worse condition, but it is clear for everybody that the current government and its predecessors have done their job as allowed by the funds available in our state.
Nobody can deny that extraordinary efforts are being made to improve the lives of these people, especially the children. All this cannot happen in several years, because a country in transition and with insufficient funds cannot manage for all who need special care to live in wonderful conditions.
It is not the fault of the Bulgarian people that we have so many children in care homes. It is not the fault of our people that we lack the financial capacity to build health facilities like the one we are opening now. It is the fault of those who unintentionally create these difficult conditions in the country.
I am disgusted by the libel against the Bulgarian people. In two days, there will be a discussion on "the children of Bulgaria" in Brussels. The large part of these children, I am talking about Mogilino, have been born by very young mothers aged 12-14. They have been abandoned by their families. To accuse the Bulgarian people for not caring for these children is, to say the least, unpleasant and dishonest, because the children in these institutions are cared for using funds given by all of us.
The day care center we are opening now is a wonderful facility. It is much superior to a number of similar European facilities."

See how Gaydarski's statement was commented on the Mogilino blog:
"Of course the minister quite conveniently omitted saying that exactly his subordinates - doctors, midwives, nurses, - convince mothers of disabled newborns to place them in an institution. Visit the page Is is easy to raise a disabled child in Bulgaria to read exactly how doctors react when a child with a problem is born. In short, they say, "Leave him in an institution, he will never become a person, you will have another child, the brain of this one is boiled." I can understand why some families abandon their children. It is exactly because Gaydarski's Ministry doesn't offer much of an alternative. Is there quality health care for these children? No. Does the health fund pay for each necessary drug? No. Are there enough rehabilitation facilities in Bulgaria? No. Are there modern prostheses and other accommodation devices? No. Are there kindergartens willing to integrate disabled children? No. Is there psychological counselling for parents of disabled children? No. Besides, the Minister apparently doesn't realize that if in our country 14-year-olds are giving birth, then his ministry isn't doing his job properly."
I agree with this comment and I want to add several words of my own.
First, Dr. Gaydarski is clearly bragging that there are so many institutions in Bulgaria. He thinks that this proves the caring attitude of Bulgarian people towards abandoned children, the disabled and the elderly, because institutions are supported by taxpayers. It seems that, at the back of the Minister's mind, some alternative method of dealing with disabled people is lingering that doesn't require money, and he is giving us and himself credit for not opting for this method. I wonder, what could it be? Throwing the disabled into the nearest river, possibly? Let's not forget that this has been done before, in Europe, less than a century ago.
Second, you can see that the Minister tries his best to perpetuate the myth that the plight of abandoned disabled children is poor because of the insufficient funds available, while in fact it is humaneness that is in short supply.
Third, the remark about the 12-14-year-old mothers is a shot in the direction of Gypsies. It is their girls who sometimes have babies in their early teens. Among the Bulgarian majority, teen pregnancies are much rarer and are almost invariably terminated. I don't think Dr. Gaydarski knows for sure that exactly the children at the Mogilino care home are born by very young mothers. At least, he shouldn't be allowed to review their cases in such detail without a proper reason. So I think he is just guessing that "young girls produce disabled babies and then abandon them". As far as I know, very young mothers have a higher risk for premature delivery, which in turn increases the risk for some disabilities. However, older parents are at a higher risk to have children with other disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism. The Minister didn't address this issue. This proves that his attitude was racist, a detail that would escape the attention of a non-Bulgarian reader. We who live in Bulgaria and know the context of the situation can see that he made a miserable attempt to exonerate the Bulgarian majority by laying the blame for abandoned disabled children on the Gypsies.
At the end, I want to say that I am sad when I think that Gaydarski is a doctor.

UPDATE: On March 9, Netinfo quoted Gaydarski saying that "it makes sense only for well-prospecting children to be taken out of care homes and integrated in the community" (Bulg. има смисъл само перспективните деца да бъдат изведени от домовете и да се интегрират в обществото).
I would say that if somebody had seen Gaydarski as a child and had labeled him ill-prospecting, perhaps some things would have been spared to us all...

No comments: