The Nurse in Black keeps fighting

While preparing to write this post I realized that I had spent far too little time on Mária Sándor’s struggle to improve the lot of nurses and other hospital employees whose salary is so low that their take-home pay is insufficient to keep body and soul together. She began her crusade almost a year ago. By the end of 2015 she was named “Person of the Year” by RTL Klub, Hungary’s largest commercial television station. The day before, she received a newly established award called “Respect,” given out by Népszabadság.

I wrote about her only once, on August 12, 2015, although she has been in the news quite frequently since. “The nurse in black,” as she has come to be known, is a symbol of courage in a country where courage is in short supply. A commentator wrote bitterly about Hungarians’ self-image as a heroic, freedom-loving people who are ready to rise against injustice whereas, in reality, there are mighty few people who have the courage to stand up and fight for their rights. He expressed his hope that there will be other brave people like Mária Sándor. Another writer actually titled his article “Cowards” when he found out that no hospital, state-owned or private, would employ Mária Sándor, although according to her superiors she was a very good nurse in the neonatal unit of the Péterfy Hospital.

In my post about Mária Sándor I described her as a “sophisticated activist who instinctively knows how to call public attention to her cause.” Her appearance at work in a black uniform was something that made her instantly famous, especially since the hospital’s reaction was to fire her on the spot. (The director later recanted.)

We have been witnessing the struggle of a single nurse because, although there are two unions allegedly representing hospital employees in addition to a newly created “professional association,” a government mandated organization to which all employees must belong, none of them has chosen to represent the interests of the grossly underpaid employees.

Mária Sándor belonged to the Független Egészségügyi Szakszervezet (Independent Union of Healthcare Workers/FESZ) as opposed to the even more opportunistic MS EDDSZ, whose leader, Ágnes Cser, was active only when there was a socialist-liberal government in place. And, of course, she belonged to the Magyar Egészségügyi Szakdolgozói Kamara (Hungarian Association of Professional Healthcare Workers/MESZK) because she had no choice. The very first thing the president of MESZK did was to initiate an investigation into Sándor’s conduct because “she has many times transgressed the regulations of the ethical code of the association.” Mária Sándor immediately contacted several media outlets, and MESZK subsequently withdrew the investigation planned against her.

With the storm over MESZK’s handling of the Sándor case, it was again “the nurse in black’s” move. She was so appalled by what the association, which is supposed to represent her, did that she decided to tender her resignation. But life isn’t so simple in Hungary. She could not practice her chosen profession unless she was a member of the government-created professional association. By quitting MESZK, Sándor gave up not only her job at Péterfy but all possibilities of working as a nurse, at least in state-owned hospitals. She was ready to take a job as an aid in a home for the elderly for about 40,000 ft. take-home pay. As she said, “I don’t want to be in the service of this system.” Her union, FESZ, simply expelled her because the leadership considered her methods “too radical.”

Soon enough she and some brave souls began a series of street demonstrations which, though they didn’t result in large crowds, prompted a few remarkable encounters. The best example was one between Mária Sándor and the leaders of FESZ, her former union. The union organized a “loyal stroll,” visiting various political parties as well as the ministry of human resources during which they passed on their proposals, which included doubling their average wage of 150,000 forints in two years. They also gave calendars to all MPs to “remind them of the difficult situation the healthcare workers are in.” It was at this point that Mária Sándor arrived with a large banner: “Hungary for Hungarian Healthcare,” the name of her new organization. That in itself managed to confuse the representatives of the official trade union, but what added to their confusion was that Tímea Szabó, co-chair of Párbeszéd Magyarországért (Dialogue), arrived in the same kind of black T-shirt worn by Mária Sándor on that fateful day in the Péterfy Hospital. The flummoxed FESZ delegates quickly left the scene. Mária Sándor stole the show.

In Mária Sándor’s opinion Hungarian healthcare is already in ruins. In an interview in Magyar Nemzet she complained about a system in which a nurse must look after 40 to 50 patients. On January 4 on TV2’s Mokka Sándor talked about the 12,800 Hungarian nurses who are by now working abroad. She also claimed that Hungarian hospitals would need at least 20,000 more nurses. Something must be done and urgently, as she asserts time and again.

The fact that she made common cause with László Mendrey’s Pedagógusok Demokratikus Szakszervezete, the more active of the two teachers’ unions, and with Andrea Varga, president of the Autonomous Territorial Trade Union, is a step in the right direction. As Mendrey says, the “goal is to reach a critical mass” instead of having individual groups representing relatively few people.” One hopeful sign is that the leaders of the “1,001 doctors against gratuity” assured their support for the teachers who started their own movement in Miskolc.

Hungary for Hungarian Health Care / Mária Sándor and her associates "We are with the teachers"

Hungary for Hungarian Health Care / Mária Sándor and associates “We are with the teachers”

In addition, a new union of physicians was established by Tamás Dénes, who spent ten years as a specialist in Great Britain. The new group is called “Rezidensek és Szakorvosok Szakszervezete” (Trade Union of Residents and Specialists / ReSzaSz). According to Dénes, physicians must change their methods because their efforts up to this point haven’t achieved anything. The first step is to stick by the rules. For example, the law specifies the maximum number of hours a doctor can work. Physicians should refuse extra work, even for extra money. That would bring home the fact that the amount of work required simply cannot be done by the number of physicians currently in the system. But he doesn’t rule out strikes or the threat of mass quitting as weapons.

Something is certainly in the air. The question is whether the underpaid and overburdened employees in education and healthcare are sufficiently desperate and fed-up to take things into their own hands and force the Orbán government to attend to the serious problems in these fields. While apparently half a trillion forints was spent on sports since 2010, perhaps a few billion could go to the education and health of Hungarians.

January 18, 2016
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Guest

London Calling!

The nurses\’ courage is growing.

Not all nurses could or wanted to join the recent strike.

However many of them wore black armbands whilst on duty to show solidarity with the Nurse in Black.

And that takes courage.

Tamás Dénes, carries a big responsibility – and goodness knows why he returned from Britain. But let\’s hope he can spark a change.

Too many senior doctor\’s will be against him as they are on the gravy train. It will be difficult to change the blackmail system.

\”The higher you build your walls – the taller I become…….\”
(Labi Siffre – So Strong)

Regards

Charlie

Magdolna Lutring
Guest

Tamás Dénes still works in Britain for a week/month. It’s enough for him to cover his expenses in Hungary. Have heard it from him in a skype interview which was taken while he was in Britain. All the best from Maggie (Magdolna Lutring, Budapest)

Guest

Thank you Magdolna!

At least he knows what standards to maintain – with a constant reference.

(Although he will no doubt tell you that it’s not all hunky dory with the English NHS either – but given the choice I know which one I would choose.)

Zoli
Guest
I think Hungarians are in fact very brave. They are after all the first to challenge the extreme left liberal dominated elites of the EU. In many ways, it is far more intimidating than Soviet tanks. If anyone doubts it, they are dishonest. After all, is it not the worst nightmare of any of us in the Western world to be called racists, xenophobes………? Other than that, we should keep in mind why wages are so low in Hungary. The same reason why wages are relatively low in all countries with a GDP/capita in the same range. There is simply not enough money to pay people more. All the arguments in regards to soccer stadiums are just red herrings. Take all that money and use it to increase the salaries of public sector employees and I doubt that it would amount to more than a 2% increase in their salaries. Not nearly enough to make much of a difference. What affects people’s wages and living standards overall in Hungary, more than any other factor is the terrible evolution of its economy in the 02-10 period. Very anemic economic growth, while debt was accumulating fast at government and consumer level. The… Read more »
Jani
Guest

Sorry, Zoli’s post is repulsive to me.
The not so bright Latefor got herself a worthy partner in Zoli.
Where can I find Hungarians with decency and integrity?

Guest

In England!

Guest

You know I\’m all for opinion. But opinion which absolutely doesn\’t form say thought out \’square corners\’ is just too much to let by. It just seems to be a rhetorical game for the \’matchups\’ don\’t compute.

The exaggerations made have no basis in realities. But come to think of it how many of modern day Hungarians would lay down their lives against the EU? I\’m not there to gauge the sacrifice.

petofi
Guest

Zoli sounds fishy (and smells same) to me.
Didn’t Bajnai do well with the economy before the 2010 elections?

Guest

Zoli?

You are too willing to follow the Dear Leader.

Other surrounding countries ‘suffered’ 2002-2010 – the very selective period you choose.

Look at Slovakia?

Hungary has gone backwards due to Orban and Matolcsy – even though he alleges ‘Hungary is Performing Better’ !!!

He also said Hungary will be the engine that will drive the EU out of recession!!!

Don’t you believe him?

Guest

And btw…..

Did you know that the opposite of your definition of ‘left liberal’ is:

Racist, xenophobic, antisemitic Hungarian thicko.

Guest

Sorry, charliecharlieh, but I can easily imagine opposites or alternatives to left-liberal that are neither racist, nor xenophobic, nor antisemitic.

Try classical liberal, German Christian democrat, classical (Tory) conservative, libertarian or right-libertarian.

Decency and compassion does not begin and end with left-liberalism, however odd this might sound to you.

Guest

Sorry, charliecharlieh, but I for one can most certainly think of opposites or perfectly decent alternatives to left-liberal that are neither racist, nor xenophobic, nor antisemitic.

Try for instance classical British liberal, classical European conservative or classical libertarian.

Decency and compassion does not begin and end with left-liberalism.

Guest

Apologies for the duplication. My first post seem to have disappeared, then after I posted the second one, the first suddenly disappeared.

The vagaries of WordPress . . . .

Guest

. . . suddenly reappeared. :-))

Istvan
Guest
Ok let’s look at Slovakia. Interesting the high standing of the Slovakian economy, I think it’s relative deprecation rather than a model of success. The average monthly wage in Slovakia using a 12 month average is 708 € which higher than Hungary’s 12 month average of 503 €, but much lower than in one of the EU’s weakest economies of Spain with a 12 month average wage of 1,734 €, or even Greece with a 12 month average wage rate of 1,069 €. But given Greece’s inflation that might not mean much. Slovakian inflation is negative recorded at -0.50 percent in December of 2015, whereas in Germany it’s slightly positive at 0.3%, or France at 0.2%, or the UK at 0.2%. The EU average with around a positive 0.2%. The negative inflation rates are seen in several former communist Central European countries for example Poland has a negative inflation rate of 0.5%, Croatia is at negative 0.6% or Romania with a negative 0.9% rate. Hungary is exceptional with positive 0.9% rate, we don’t need to talk about situations like the Ukraine where inflation is out of control, or Russia which has over a 12% inflation rate. Overall Slovakia like most… Read more »
Zoli
Guest

It would be nice if you could actually check some facts before posting charlie. You want to look at Slovakia? Let us look at Slovakia. I invite you to go to Tradingeconomics. You will see that in 2002 Hungary and Slovakia had a GDP/capita that was about the same. By 2010 Slovakia had a DGP/capita that was 30% higher compared with Hungary’s. Not to mention that in 2010, Slovakia was not burdened with a predatory IMF deal, its debt/GDP ratio was less than half that of Hungary’s and it did not have such a massive fx consumer debt problem as Hungary did. There is therefore a huge difference in performance. If Hungary would have performed as well as Slovakia during that period, current wages would be at least 30% higher in Hungary today. Perhaps even 50%. These are the facts. It is not about what Orban said, or Gyurcsanyi said or the great Hesus said. It is about the economic data history, which says it all.

Observer
Guest

@Zoli,

We see the current slogans:
“Hungarian reforms are working, Hungary performs better and Orban is winning”, BUT.

The economic data says otherwise – Hungary has been falling behind E.Europe, V4 and the Baltics on almost all indicators, e.g. growth, investment/GDP, employment, disposable income.
Even the doctored government debt figures show 76-80% GDP, add HUF 2 300 billion private pension funds and the debt is already 92%GDP, add approx. 500 billion from bleeding the healthcare, education, transport, etc. systems, the real debt in comparison with 2010 is 95-97% GDP.

So please ….

Observer
Guest

And here is Trading Economics on gov.debt growth:
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/hungary/external-debt

1998 – 2002 from EUR 21 to 39 billion, i.e. 85% more in 4 years.
2002 – 2006 from EUR 39 to 72 bill. i.e. 84 % more.
2006 – 2010 from EUR 72 to 138 bill. i.e. 91 % more, including the great recession.

So please spare us Orban’s flat lies and slips.

Guest

I said look at Slovakia because in the same period and in the same situation they had done much better. Simple.

They did have foreign currency mortgages and they are a low wage economy – they have a more successful economy because they don’t have Matolcsy or Orban – better leadership all round and not so corrupt.

I just can’t see how anyone can have blinkers over their eyes to believe Orban is good for Hungary.

But then again you see it through the eyes of transition from communism where you are frozen in some sort of commocratic state.

I see it from the perspective of a decent democracy were everyone is equal and it’s a meritocratic society.

The list of ‘bad’ in Hungary is long – I just know there’s no point in arguing the toss because you have such a warped view.

It’s not just from an economical perspective – it’s from a decent society perspective. But you know nothing else I would suggest. You’ve been brainwashed.

But I’ll wager with you that one day – when the scales fall from your eyes and Orban is gone – you will see things differently.

Very very differently.

webber
Guest

“In many ways, it is far more intimidating than Soviet tanks”
Talk about trivializing the crimes of communism!
I believe that’s actually a crime in Hungary. Am I wrong about that?

Guest

Goodness what nonsense you talk. But of course you are just being silly on purpose. If you are horrified at being labelled a racist, then stop behaving like one. If you cannot do the maths as regards spending on sport, versus improvements in health and education, then get a mathematician to help you, though not one from Orbán\’s camp, as the goons there are paid to obfuscate, not illuminate.
And if you need help to undo the brainwashing you have had from Orbán\’s nasty little mischief makers, then you can do no beter than by reading Éva\’s excellent Hungarian Post.
Well done you, Zoli, for your bravery in sticking with us.

Zoli
Guest

With left extremism out of control in Western society, and unfortunately widely accepted, it is hard not to be labeled a racist. One of the women assaulted in Koln was labeled a racist for reporting what happened to her.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/13/2770829/

Given the fiasco we saw in Koln, with authorities and the mainstream media initially trying to sweep it under the carpet, thus victimizing the victims twice in the name of protecting your extremist ideology and its dominant position in Western society, perhaps time has come to help undo the brainwashing that caused our society to reach this sorry state, don’t you think?

Guest

Quoting breitbart – a well known looney right wing site shows what kind of idiot you are!
Go to kuruc, there you might be welcome!

Zoli
Guest

Who do you want me to quote? Those “reputable” news outlets which tried to sweep this under the carpet? The same ones who were showing us nothing but pictures of women and children migrants for the past year? Your argument may have had a chance of flying a month ago, at least with those ideologically like-minded. But fact is that there is currently no difference in reputation between the likes of Breitbart and the so-called mainstream media, which is sad.

Aside from that, your language is uncalled for in my opinion.
It most certainly highlights your level of civilization and intellect.

Csapó
Guest

Zoli: you are wrong about the red herrings. There is a real possibility to increase salaries in health care and in education.

Any sensible person could eliminate about 500bn forints of unnecessary expenditures from the state budget within 15 minutes (stadiums, sport, media, advertising, nationalization of and capital increases of loss-making companies etc.). It would make a real difference.

This is not just about the proverbial Audi keys anymore although there are 3 times as many deputy state secretaries, ministerial commissioners etc. with Audis and a driver than 10 or 15 years ago so one could save on them too. There are huge items to be cut too, one could really save a lot.

Zoli
Guest

Wrong Chapo, I am right about the red herrings. Many of the things you listed as unnecessary expenditures, are things that in fact most countries do spend money on. And in the case of things like sports, I agree with the spending. After all, I think it indirectly benefits society. In my opinion, professional sports encourage young people to be more active themselves, due to the role model effect. That in turn leads to lower health care costs and more productive people, given that they are healthier.

Other things, such as media, most other countries spend money on that as well.

Also, do not forget that Hungary gets dividend income from investments such as MOL. Sure, government could sell that and spend it on higher government wages. But that is a one-time boost. When that money is gone, what will happen? Do you cut their wages? So money gone, dividend income gone, and government assets that can bolster country’s finances in case of another global financial disaster also gone.

Guest

I stopped reading your idiocies after this:
the extreme left liberal dominated elites of the EU

Kuruc might be a better platform for your nonsense!

zoleeee
Guest

Zoli, let’s go back to the elementary school civics class. The question is not what you personally think about spending on sports or state propaganda but whether you think it is moral/useful/justified to spend on these items when (i) the health care system is in shambles, (ii) the education system is the last or last but one in the OECD (perhaps Romania behind us but not for long) and so on?

You seem to answer this affirmatively. Let people die early, remain dumb and poor etc. but we need the state media (propaganda) because other countries have it too. Attaboy. I think your handlers at Belügy would be proud of you.

petofi
Guest

Zoli,
you write decent English and appear plausible. Obviously, you got the best that the basement, KGB boys could spend on you.

Spending on sports–so, you support Orban’s spending huge sums on a 4,000 seat stadium beside his house in Felcsut that only 300 people (probably under duress) attend, right? Can you explain the benefit to society?
What about the train being built to it? Benefit?

What about spending millions to attract the Olympics
to Hungary?…To a sad-sack nation that has hospitals that belong to the 1920’s and not 2015. (By the way, I carry
toilet paper in three pockets when I visit one.) No nation
has ever profited from the Olympics. Rich cities in the US and Canada have dropped their bids but Budapest can afford, right?

Have you seen how teacher’s rooms are outfitted with one computer to work on in many schools? That’s of, right?

Of course, I’m just wasting my efforts because you’re more than likely a well-paid maggot sent to sow discord on the blog….

Guest

Ámulok az egetverő hülyeségeken, amiket képes vagy itt összehordani.

It might help if you opened your eyes and ears, shut your mouth and get your facts straight, before you uttered another word.

petofi
Guest

There are three people of decency and integrity in Hungary:
the nurse, the tax official who blew the whistle, and Angyan.

If G-D got in on the act…it wouldn’t be enough to save Budapest.

Pisti L,
Guest

Paks 2 is totally on. Just as Orban spends on his pet projects no matter what also Putin and the Russian elite will always find money for strategic issues such as binding CEE countries to Russia via energy deals.

Paks 2 will be financed by Russia. The Russian people can endure a lot and they will endure a lot and they will also find money to finance Paks 2 – it’s only an investment.

Hungary will have to pay back the money with interest so it’s not like Russia is losing that money, to the contrary, Russian companies will be kept busy and the money will be paid back with good interest by Hungarians.

http://444.hu/2016/01/19/putyin-hivta-magahoz-orbant

Guest

What has this to do with the Nurse in Black?

spectator
Guest

I guess it has quite bit to do with one more superfluous investment for tons of money, while the healthcare system passed it’s “best used before” date sometimes at least thirty years ago, or thereabout…

Guest

My conclusion is really simple:

O is taking Hungary back to the Feudal system of Horthy – with a very clear distinction between the classes, the main difference being that instead of riding white horses the new upper class drives (or is driven in …) a black Audi.
Not too much OT:
I’ve been warning all my family and friends:

When you come to Hungary beware of the black Audis, driven by a mafioso, a poltician or a ruthless capitalist (usually all in one …) – they have no regard for traffic rules or the lives of other people on the road!

Always remember Laser Johnny’s motto:
If you have nothing – then you are nothing!

Guest

“When you come to Hungary beware of the black Audis, driven by a mafioso, a poltician or a ruthless capitalist (usually all in one …) – they have no regard for traffic rules or the lives of other people on the road!”

In Kadar time it was all the same except they were driving black Mercedes. Only the very top politicians had to make do with a ZIM, the Russian Cadillac.

webber
Guest

Not only black audis – the last time I drove downtown a red car with Hungarian plates passed me from the left, and ran through four red lights before I lost sight of it. Obviously the driver had no fear of the traffic cameras installed all over downtown.

Guest

It’s always fun driving in Budapest. I am still wondering why there’s a yellow light on the traffic lights if not to tell people to hit the gas pedal…

Guest

As I’ve described before it’s even “more fun” when the car has Slovak licence plates – and a map of Greater Hungary as a bumper sticker.

PS:
Has anyone heard any news about that exclusive Ferrari that was crashed by its driver in Budapest?
It also had a Slovak licence plate but Tyrker told us here that “it belonged to an Italian businessman in Hungary” – strange things happen in Orbanistan …

Guest

Totally OT – but maybe worth a post?

A meeting between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in February is not a regular scheduled meeting, according to Hungarian daily newspaper Népszabadság. The paper reported on Tuesday that they are to discuss not only the expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant (by Russia’s Rosatom from an EUR 10 billion Russian loan), but also Russia possibly selling arms and military helicopters to Hungary.
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/putin_requests_meeting_with_hungarian_pm_orban_in_moscow_paper.30777.html

And a reminder of what happens to people that cross Putin:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/19/alexander-litvinenko-the-man-who-solved-his-own-murder

Reading this really gave me the creeps …

Guest

“…but also Russia possibly selling arms and military helicopters to Hungary.”

The Fidesz mafia needs many helicopters to escape when the time comes. They cannot afford the expensive American ones.

Guest

Hehe….But in any case if they were smart they’d check to make sure the ‘whirlybird package ‘ doesn’t include dishwasher motors. Strange things do happen when Vladdie is around … as noted.

Member

I am sure the NATO is looking forward to Russian planes with no secret GPS built in…

petofi
Guest

@Wolfi

re: Putin and Litvinenko

I got news for you: the same day Litvinenko died, a Russian was killed/murdered in the heart of Washington–a little signal from Putin: I’ll get anyone, anywhere, anytime.

hola
Guest

Recent headlines from the news in 2016 vs. the taxi driver demonstration in Budapest against Uber.

http://zeroz3ro.tumblr.com/post/137548380057/2016-os-h%C3%ADrek-a-mai-uber-ellenes-taxisblok%C3%A1d

Member

And this has significance, why?

Taxi Driver
Guest

I guess it means that there are 10,000 reasons why people could demonstrate, but only the taxi drivers do so and they do it because Uber is taking away their state-protected, price-controlled business.

petofi
Guest

What’s the big deal? The taxi industry wasn’t/couldn’t be…regulated. There are/were for many years, many ‘hyena’ cabs who regularly trap tourists to pay 5,000 forints for a 1,000 cab ride. Plus, many cabs have a button that can be pushed by the driver’s foot to speed up the meter.

Hungaricum.

webber
Guest

Yep. Hungarian state news is full of the “poor Hungarian taxi drivers” story, and somehow missed the fact that Uber drivers in Budapest are Hungarian, not to mention the poor Hungarian taxi rider story.

Guest

I think it will be interesting if Maria Sandor’s group linkup get to ‘critical mass’. Would they perhaps actually demonstrate and strike if there is no movement on the issues? Besides getting a look as far as the government wants to go I’d say if they do that they can open themselves to a vicious campaign by the government of perhaps being portrayed as unconcerned about patients and their lives. They’d have to be prepared for that with all its issues.

spectator
Guest

“Something is certainly in the air.”

Correct observation Eva!
(Beside the stench of the rotten society, — let me add, — even if it’s a cheap pun I found rather suitable.)

Why would otherwise Orbán insist on the newly proposed amendment of the Fundamental Law (maiden name was ‘Constitution’, but got raped – hence the change) in order to have total power even formally, when the time comes?

Magdolna Lutring
Guest

A swift in the policies of the present Hungarian government can solely be reached through a mass demonstration just like it happened in the case of the planned internet tax. This government isn’t interested in keeping old people alive who constitute the bulk of the hospital patients. They only listen to large crowds, any other effort to change their will has been proved useless.
Mária Sándor is a heroine of her own kind, all of us just look up to, a rare figure these days.
All the best from Maggie (Magdolna Lutring, teacher)

Guest

Yes Magdolna. She’ll be a real heroine when Orban falls.

She’ll be a brave reformer together with Tamás if they get the chance.

I do hope so – people with integrity.

Btw are you the teacher who posted under ‘Magdi’ earlier explaining how under- resourced the teaching profession is – with 29 years’ experience?

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