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Coronavirus: Gov’t Says Large-scale Hospital Evacuations to Prepare for Mass Infections

Fanni Kaszás 2020.04.16.

Hospital directors received a letter from the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) last week, containing instructions on evacuating hospitals and freeing up 60% of their bed capacity as soon as possible. Now, the official information website on the coronavirus, koronavirus.gov.hu, also provides a breakdown by county on the exact number of hospital beds that should be prepared to care for coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, more and more heartbreaking stories are circulating in the Hungarian press and social media sites of patients dismissed from hospitals with chronic diseases, serious psychological conditions, or with a need for professional rehabilitation, supervision, and constant 24/7 care.

The government website states that “…as it can be seen from the daily data, more and more people are infected and more and more are sick in Hungary. One of the most important elements of control against the epidemic is that hospitals across the country are preparing for the stage of mass illnesses. More beds will have to be vacated in case a mass number of patients have to be treated in hospitals.”

As we reported yesterday, in a letter, Minister Miklós Kásler instructed all hospital directors to release at least 60% of beds in their hospitals.

Sudden Coronavirus Hospital Evacuations Cause Families to Face Unexpected Challenges

The government website also recalled the words of Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller, who said that “…reports show there are countries and cities where suddenly, hospitals needed the space for hundreds of thousands of patients due to mass infections. We saw that there was simply no space to put patients, they didn’t get beds and proper hospital care. We want to avoid this situation when preparing hospitals for the worst-case scenario. The 50% bed capacity to be provided by April 19th means a total of 32,900 beds, while the next phase of the evacuation process, 60% bed capacity, means a total of 39,500 beds to be provided for the care of coronavirus patients, if necessary.”

In today’s press briefing, Gergely Gulyás, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, also said that the number of beds needed in case of the onset of mass illnesses, even in the worst-case scenario, was determined with the help of doctors, virologists, and mathematicians. Although there are not as many infections in the country that would show the need for the sudden evacuations, the government would like to prepare in advance, as the modifications  will require days or even weeks.

Hospitals have been given the target number of beds for their institutions, but at the same time, while maintaining the bed capacity required for their own county, hospitals have the opportunity to reallocate to each other within the county. According to valaszonline.hu, hospitals can now provide space for at least 150-180,000 patients with confirmed infections. However, the government hope they will not need the increased capacity of beds.

The official coronavirus website emphasized that this “doesn’t mean sending all the other patients home from the hospitals. It is up to the attending physicians or medical council to decide which patients can be sent home and which cannot.” While Gulyás also said today that they will not send home patients who are in need of hospital care that cannot be solved within the framework of home care.

However, more and more heartbreaking stories are circulating in the Hungarian press and social media sites about patients dismissed from hospitals with chronic diseases, serious psychological conditions, or with a need for professional rehabilitation, supervision, and constant 24/7 care.

Many people spent their Easter weekend desperately trying to deal with the care of relatives in need of constant care, as more and more people have been called from healthcare facilities since Good Friday to take patients home by Tuesday due to hospital evacuations. However, the crisis situation causing loss of jobs, economic hardship, and the curfew restrictions, it is increasingly hard to care for relatives or find professionals who can help treat the ill patients.

A reader of 24.hu reported that his mother’s 90-year-old partner, who needs 24-hour supervision, also had to leave the hospital. The old man with dementia is unable to take care of himself, and the woman’s elderly, 77-year-old mother with a shoulder prosthesis and who walks with a cane, cannot care for him either. Many are also complaining that although they can handle the supervision of their relatives, they are not professionals, so they cannot perform the needed feeding, diapering, or even catheterization or infusions necessary.

Others are also complaining that they did not appropriately assess where patients would be sent before the measure was applied. While doctors may assess someone as a patient who can be treated at home, it is not confirmed whether they have relatives nearby, or anyone at all who can do the job. A woman for example, who lives overseas, is unable to help her 77-year-old amputeed aunt with dementia who has to leave the Szikszó hospital, and needs 24/7 care, feeding, and changing of her diapers.

As the waiting lists in nursing homes are long under normal circumstances, and no new residents are allowed in facilities all over the country due to the epidemic, it is not an option to try and accommodate patients who were dismissed from the hospitals in care homes. Nowadays, nursing homes are not even taking the elderly from hospitals, because there is a high risk of bringing the infection into the institutions. The sad example of the Pesti Road care home unit shows the dangers of the epidemic breaking into a home, in which currently there are more than 210 infected elderly and 10 who have died because of coronavirus.

featured photo: János Vajda/MTI