No other civic organisation granted so much support for a Hungarian hospital – this is what György Velkey, chairman of the Hungarian Hospital Association said about the operation of the Children Cancer Foundation in a film advertisement, by which as István Balogh, president of the Foundation put it “they won the battle against all accusations”. Why did György Velkey take such a crucial role? We asked him.
May people were surprised that you, the director of the Bethesda Children Hospital stood up for the foundation troubled by scandals.
I do not know the background behind the legal matters of the Children Cancer Foundation, and I do not want to formulate any opinion of them. For me, these matters are of no importance, besides the fact that people like if donations go to the right place.
This is the central question.
The money we received went to the right place, and I and my patients are very grateful for that. As the directors of Bethesda Children’s Hospital, I found myself in difficult situations several times, where medical devices of high value were urgently needed because the other ones broke down, became old-fashioned and we did not have a replacement. When I desperately turned to the Foundation for the first time, I was fainthearted to ask them money to purchase cancel diagnosis devices. Since then, I have turned them for help several times.
It was a severe complaint against the Foundation that the special cancer centres did not receive any or enough support. So, do you see it differently?
We requested a valuable ultra-sound device, a complex laboratory automated device, a breathing device, a mobile ultrasound machines, and finally another two breathing devices in a total value of over HUF 100 million. In our case, everything was fair, fast and efficient. We asked for what we urgently needed, and they correctly delivered the appropriate devices. I found it natural to talk about it in a film advertisement too. If we requested and accepted the donations from them, I found it right to tell it to the public.
But you made your statement as chairman of the Hungarian Hospital Association. This was the inscription to be seen while you were talking. Other hospitals did not have such a favourable experience.
I made my statement as director of the Bethesda hospital, but I also added that the Foundation granted significant donations to other Hungarian hospitals as well. In this regard, I received information from other hospitals before making my statement.
The Foundation has been holding over HUF 800 million on its bank account for years, because the president of the Board of Trustees has been chasing an impossible dream: he wants to build a hospital for children. However, those who offer one percent of their personal income tax do not want to support a bank account but ill children.
I have heard that a significant amount has not been used, and that their relationship with the children cancer centres was troublesome. To the best of my knowledge, they want to establish an alternative institute. More than ten years ago, we also discussed this issue but I opposed their idea as in my opinion Hungarian paediatric oncology represents a European level today, and there is no need for a separate hospital. As far as I know, the Foundation has to use its reserves held on its bank account in the near future to serve the best interest of children with cancer, but I have received no more information about that. One thing is sure though, as the director of the Hungarian Hospital Association, I do not feel myself to be the arbiter in a legal matter like that.
But this seems to be the case.
No, I am not talking about the operation of the Foundation, because I do not know it in depth, but about actual donations which I have detailed information about.
Are you sure? You also said that “no other civic organisation granted so much support for a Hungarian hospital.” There exist other foundations which grant financial support for ill children in a value of hundreds of millions of forints. The Szívbeteg Gyermekek Védelmében Alapítvány (Foundation for the Protection of Children with Heart Disease), for instance, donated HUF 800 million to the Hungarian Institute of Cardiology during the last ten years. And this is not among the most significant foundations.
Children Cancer Foundation disposes over an amount of HUF 300-500 million or even more, and is regarded as one of the earliest organisations collecting donations. Year by year, I follow the activities of the civic organisations; other organisations may not be able to grant such significant donations because Children Cancer Foundation is the leading target of the one percent of personal income tax dispositions. In this respect, the Foundation of Heim Pál Hospital is another competitor, but the amount offered to them reached only half or one-third of the amount offered to Children Cancer Foundation. Therefore, it can be undoubtedly established that my statement was supported by the facts.
The Foundation refused the requests of several hospitals claiming that it is the state’s responsibility to purchase such devices which are directly related to medical treatment. Were you not asked the question why the ultrasound device was not purchased by your owner that is the Reform Church?
No. The church is our maintainer, which has not enough resources for the replacement of the outdated devices. In this regard, we have several generous individual donators and the Foundation of the Bethesda hospital have been one of our most significant regular supporters, which have granted us financial support exceeding the donation given by the foundation for children with heart disease during the last decades. Unfortunately, a lot more is needed than we would be able to cover by using such resources. We had no other choice – our devices broke down, and there were only a few organisations which were able to help us to purchase medical devices worth tens of millions of forints.
But the Bethesda hospital is not a children oncology centre
This is true, we are not an oncology centre any more, but being a busy institution for children, these huge devices are rather useful when discovering tumours, therefore patients with cancer in serious condition may also come to our institute, in which cases we also use the devices of the intensive care unit, including the breathing devices.
Your hospital has its own foundation, which my newspaper has supported in several campaigns. Have you not become your own competitor when you appeared in the film advertisement of Children Cancer Foundation?
The Bethesda hospital may not be able to function without the Foundation of the Bethesda Children Hospital, and it may not be able to work in the way it is doing so today. In this way, we receive significant support, for which we are very grateful. As the chairman of the foundation I can also say that we carefully consider how to make the best use of every single forint. We make all possible effort to make our work and mind apparent in every field possible, and in this way many people get to know about our work. We would like to say thank you for continuing to support us by transferring your donations to VAT number 180 425 39 – 1 – 42.
And what is your answer to my question?
I regard this issue as separate from my intention not to keep it a secret if another organisation regularly and significantly supports the medical activities of the hospital, but to say thank you for such support in public – as the director of the hospital.