Romanian midwife championed in Britain as homeland in crisis

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In this image taken from an online video interview with The Associated Press, Claudia Anghel, a Romanian midwife working in England, holds up a photograph of a large display in Piccadilly Circus showing her portrait shot by celebrity photographer Rankin, for a campaign celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the U.K.'s National Health Service, in Nuneaton, England, Tuesday, July, 28, 2020. Anghel's success story as one of 600,000 Romanians in Britain is at the same time a telling sign of how the deficiencies of her home country's health care system and the bleak prospects for a better future for herself and her family have left huge gaps in Romanian society and its health care system. (AP Photo)

BUCHAREST – Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie and ... Claudia Anghel?

Anghel, an experienced Romanian midwife, has joined the star-studded ranks of people whose portraits have been taken by famed photographer Rankin.

It was done as part of a billboard campaign celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the U.K.’s National Health Service, which gives residents free health care. Anghel has been working as a midwife in Britain since 2012.

Her success story as one of 600,000 Romanians in Britain is at the same time a telling sign of how the deficiencies of her home country’s health care system and the bleak prospects for a better future for herself and her family have left huge gaps in Romanian society and its health care system.

Romania, an impoverished former communist country ruled for decades with an iron fist by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, joined the European Union in 2007. The move opened up massive new work prospects for the country's 19 million people.

By 2013, more than 14,000 Romanian doctors were working abroad, about 26% of the country’s total number of physicians. By 2016, official statistics showed that 44,000 medical staffers had left for Western Europe, with current estimates putting that figure as high as 60,000.

The issues plaguing Romanian health care reflect the country’s overall problems — low wages, corruption, bad management and favoritism tied to political or personal connections that paves the way for advancement over other attributes like skill, experience or merit.

Anghel said that while higher Western salaries certainly influenced her decision to emigrate to Britain, it wasn’t the most important factor.