Oscar-nominated Romanian film reveals health care failings

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Tedy Ursuleanu, a survivor of the Colectiv nightclub fire, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the Elvire Popesco cinema in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, April 12, 2021. The Oscar-nominated Romanian documentary film Collective follows a group of journalists delving into the state of health care in the eastern European country in the wake of a deadly 2015 nightclub fire that left dozens of burned victims in need of complex treatment. What they revealed was decades of deep-rooted corruption, a heavily politicized system scarily lacking in care. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

BUCHAREST – Seeing the day that her life changed forever played out on a big screen was an emotional moment for Tedy Ursuleanu.

“I watched the film for the first time in this cinema," the 34-year-old told The Associated Press in an interview at Bucharest’s Elvire Popesco cinema. "The fire scenes at the beginning of the film when the pillar next to the stage starts burning — I felt the same intensity from the night I was there. I had to go outside for a few minutes to take a breather.”

The Romanian movie “Collective” is nominated for two Oscars — best foreign film and best documentary feature. It follows a team of investigative journalists searching for the truth in the wake of the Oct. 30, 2015, fire at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest. It killed 65 people — 27 on the night, the others in the months that followed, including a suicide victim more than 18 months later. It left Ursuleanu with severe burns and her recovery has taken years.

The fire was the result of an on-stage pyrotechnics show gone wrong, but the journalists were not looking into the causes of the blaze. Instead, they were looking at Romania's health care system, and what they revealed was decades of deep-rooted corruption, a heavily politicized system scarily lacking in care.

For instance, they discovered that for a decade watered-down disinfectants had been knowingly sold to around 350 state hospitals.

A doctor in the aftermath of the fire described the situation as a “biological bomb,” and while health officials said that burn patients were receiving care on a par with what they would receive in Germany, burns victims were dying of infections in bacteria-riddled hospitals.

“I was shocked, honestly I was shocked. I couldn’t believe the level of corruption in our health care system,” said Ursuleanu.

Although she survived, her recovery was far from straightforward.