Burns Supper 1999

About 380 people gathered on Saturday 23 January 1999 at the Hűvösvölgyi Vigadó on the outskirts of Budapest for the city’s second Burns Supper, complete with whisky, pipers, formal Highland dress and, of course, haggis, neeps and tatties.

But there was also a Hungarian feel to the evening with a Magyar piper, hurka sausage and steamed cabbage.

Tickets for the Supper cost HUF 5,000, with HUF 1,000 going directly to the hospital. Additional money was raised through a raffle and auction, and a hotline was set up for those who wish to make donations but cannot attend the event.

The evening, backed by many sponsors and the British Embassy, the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary, the British Tourist Authority and the Hungarian Scottish Society, has so far raised HUF 2.3 million for Semmelweis University of Medicine’s Second Department of Paediatrics (SOTE II).

The organizers hope to eventually raise HUF 8 million ($36,360 at January 1999 exchange rates), which will permit SOTE II to complete the refurbishment necessary to reopen its primary operating theatre, closed since 1994. The department cares for children with genetic diseases, congenital malformations, metabolic and heart diseases, leukaemia and malignant tumors and runs an intensive care unit.

Since last year’s Burns Supper kicked-off the department’s charitable drive, it has been able to raise HUF 15 million ($71,430) and nearly complete the repairs necessary to meet the strict requirements of the national health commission.

A new surgical lamp has been purchased and air-conditioning has been installed. The room has been made sterile and everything appears ready to go. One problem, though: The department’s budget has not permitted the purchase of a new operating table. Presently, there is a great open space beneath the lamp in the green-tiled room.

“We want to raise enough money to let them get the operating table of their choice,” MacKenzie said. “If we have the table, then immediately we will be able to start utilizing the primary operating theatre,” explained Professor György Fekete, head of the paediatrics department.

Today, the department’s surgeons and ear, nose and throat doctors share one operating theatre. Nearly 700 operations were conducted in it last year. “If we have both operating rooms in good condition, then these two teams will be able to work in parallel every day of the week,” said Fekete. “Now, because there is only one operating room, some operations have to be postponed for a second or third day.”

The primary operating theatre is more than three times larger than the room currently being used. It is difficult for doctors to maintain strict hygiene in such a small space, and the room is simply not large enough for all the equipment the doctors would like to have on hand.

In addition, the theatre has a 25-year-old metal operating table that, according to Dr Károly Ungor, makes taking x-rays on the table extremely difficult. The second-story room also lacks air-conditioning and can be unbearably hot in the summer.

“It’s not for our team’s comfort,” stressed Ungor, a paediatric surgeon. “It is the children who will be the main winners.”

(Taken from articles which first appeared in The Budapest Sun in early 1999)