The Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) released a statement yesterday that the coronavirus in Hungary is in the early stages of development and that the number of infected patients who are not yet identified may be as many as 1,000 people. According to epidemiological statistical models, this number can increase to 7-8 thousand people in one week, and up to 50-60 thousand within the next two weeks. Therefore, the MOK proposed 11 measures to be introduced to the government. At the usual press conference of the operational board, Zoltán Kovács, international spokesman at the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister reacted to the proposal package saying that “when statements and proposals are published via press or open letters, it confirms the suspicion that they want to politicize with it.” This came on the heels of last week’s harsh debate between MOK and the government. Since then, the government has announced some new measures that the Chamber has proposed.
The Hungarian Medical Chamber said that although they welcomed the measures the government had already put in place, they felt that further preventive measures are urgently needed, as has been the case in countries that have successfully dealt with the outbreak and several European countries where the virus has exhausted the healthcare systems.
Therefore, they published their 11-point suggestion package on their website. According to the chamber, these measures, such as drastically reduced social distancing among the population are essential to successful action, so that the country can prevent the number of coronavirus patients from reaching 50-60,000 within two weeks.
- As in other countries (e.g. Spain, Italy, France), introduce measures to radically reduce the number of contacts that allow the virus to spread, including the complete closure of restaurants and nightclubs, theaters and cultural institutions, sports facilities, churches, and non-food stores.
- We consider it necessary to restrict the departure from the residence only in highly justified cases, limited to commuting to work, shopping, access to health services, and essential administration.
- We recommend that you designate healthcare facilities that only treat patients with respiratory symptoms. With this measure, we concentrate on the availability of protective equipment and make our care more efficient.
- Patients with fever and respiratory complaints should be separated from other patients and should be at least two meters apart from each other during both waiting and care.
- The feasibility of keeping asymptomatic contacts away from active hospital beds should be investigated.
- Healthcare workers should only work with protective equipment that provides adequate protection, and the amount needed for this should be centrally provided to all healthcare workers. This is of paramount importance because the affected health workers can spread the epidemic themselves, and on the other hand, either they fall ill, or are quarantined, a mass number of healthcare workers will fall out of the system. People can only enter hospitals with a surgical face mask and after disinfection of the hands, the conditions of which must be provided at the entrances.
- We strongly oppose the mobilization and involvement of healthcare workers over the age of 65. It would expose the group with the worst prognosis to the risk of getting infected. They should be specifically targeted for protection, and will continue to be in great need of the Hungarian health system after the outbreak is curbed.
- In all cases deemed necessary by the attending physician (e.g. hospital admission), the possibility to perform a coronavirus test should be provided in order to isolate infected patients in a timely manner and to better protect health workers. Screening tests should always be carried out on persons in direct contact.
- Give permit to authorized laboratories to perform coronavirus testing and the NNK National Reference Laboratory should confirm positive cases. Until the confirmatory examination is completed, the patient should be treated according to the appropriate protocol. Contact testing is possible and justified at this stage of the epidemic and available tests should be used.
- Nationally prohibit all postponable health services, including private healthcare.
Spokesman Zoltán Kovács responded to the suggestions on behalf of the government at the regular daily press conference of the operational board. He said that “there are professionals and professional channels through which any such proposal can be transmitted to the operational board,” adding that “when statements and proposals are published via press or open letters, it confirms the suspicion that they want to politicize with it.”
He then reassured everyone that “the proposals made by the MOK, especially with regard to the political attachment of the President, have been examined several times in recent days and weeks by the operational board.” Kovács added that the task of the board is to propose as many measures to be taken as possible and in the light of the current situation, the government will be able to say yes or no and take action.
Kovács added that he considers the MOK’s messaging through the press “a political act.” He added that making a political profit in this situation makes no sense, and there is no need for it. They ask for cooperation from both the opposition and the organizations, as it is in the interest of the Hungarian people that everyone help to defend against the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week, the MOK stated at a press conference that surgical masks that doctors and health professionals use do not provide proper protection from the coronavirus. They called on the government to help equip hospitals with the necessary instruments for patient care and also offered help. They also said that the chamber will continue to fight for wages in these difficult times.
Harsh Debate between Doctors’ Chamber and Gov’t on Protection from Coronavirus
The Ministry of Human Capacities answered in a statement, claiming that they do have all the necessary equipment and it is “unprecedented that the MOK leadership is trying to blackmail the government in an emergency situation.” The MOK then simply called the government’s “anti-doctor sentiment a national security risk.”
On Monday, the government announced some new measures that the Chamber proposed.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI