Hungary

Hungary was the third country behind the Iron Curtain to be visited, though the “uninvited guests” had left by the time of the second TSS trip. In 1975 there were again remarkable insights from friendly hosts who talked freely. “No hospital doctor need be poor” remarked one professor wrily, highlighting the practice of present-giving by thankful patients. Another commented “The only place where there is enthusiasm for Communism is in the West”.

Certainly doctors were underpaid and undervalued by the State, and many took to taxi-driving or waiting in restaurants to supplement their meagre income. In both 1975 and 1993 the Semmelweiss Hospital and the Oncological Institute were visited in Budapest. In 1975 it was said that skill was impressive but facilities were poor: water was brought in a steam kettle and a Victorian hat-stand was seen supporting a drip. One member toured the National Institute for Physical Education and Sports Health. A full medical check-up is given to all who take up sport, and national athletes undergo rigorous physical and psychological assessment.

There is a Sports Medicine Diploma for those who complete a four-year course in the subject. In 1975 Pecs, in the south of Hungary, was visited and its well-equipped modern hospital admired, including a central sterile supply. Pecs also had a medical university taking 200 students a year. 1993 was known to Society members as the Year of the Horse, for not only is Hungary famous for its Magyar horsemanship but our Hungarian member, Andras Barabas, also hosted the autumn meeting at Bury St Edmunds, as well as ensuring that his birthplace gave us a truly memorable reception in the spring.