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Hospitals Nearing Their Capacities Amid Increasing Number of COVID Patients?

Fanni Kaszás 2020.11.05.

As the number of coronavirus patients is growing in the country, the number of those requiring hospital and ventilator treatment is also increasing. While PMO Head Gergely Gulyás said that that even according to the most pessimistic estimates, the number of patients who would need to be put on ventilators was not expected to exceed 10,000. Some hospitals are already nearing their capacities, and more and more epidemic hospitals must be opened. 

Back in September, the Prime Minister presented the worst-case scenario of the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in Hungary. According to Orbán, a maximum of 200,000 Hungarians can be infected at one time. This means that in contrast to the previously purchased 16,000 ventilators, only 800 machines and 16,000 hospital beds would be needed. Back in April, the government had set the goal of emptying a total of 36,000 hospital beds in preparation for the worst-case coronavirus epidemic scenario expected, most of which remained empty until the second wave of the epidemic.

It seems, however, that some hospitals are already struggling with their capacities, as more and more institutions are reporting that they are full, and new hospitals have been added to the list of institutions dealing with COVID-19 patients. In the Central Hungarian region, the primary care facilities are the large hospitals in Budapest, while the second line in Pest County is the Vác and Cegléd hospitals. When they are full, Esztergom and the other county institutions will be added in to care for coronavirus patients.

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Last week, the Cegléd Hospital had already announced that 148 beds with ventilators had been set aside for the treatment of coronavirus patients. The institution has 11 intensive care beds, which can be expanded several times, according to Dezső Pusztai, hospital director, but according to napi.hu, these are already full.

The hospital in Miskolc has also announced last week that 80 percent of the beds set aside for coronavirus patients and intensive care units were full as well, so more hospitals would have to be designated for the purpose. Meanwhile, egerhirek.hu reported that the local Ferenc Markhot Hospital had also been declared an epidemic hospital, after the hospital in Miskolc reported nearing its capacity.

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However, not only the capacity of hospitals but also the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are in question. Liberal news portal 444.hu wrote that in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, the government office started to assign GPs with the appropriate specialist exam to the András Jósa Hospital in Nyíregyháza, regardless of age, with a 24-hour deadline. At the same time, according to the Hungarian Medical Chamber, as “the number of patients in hospitals and ventilators is growing, critically ill patients in COVID wards are already being treated by ophthalmologists, psychiatrists and dentists.”

National Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller spoke about the capacity of the hospitals at a press conference of the operative board on Wednesday. She emphasized that the rapid, exponential rise in infections is also leading to a large increase in the number of hospital admissions. According to the latest data today, 5,183 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in hospital, 378 of whom are requiring ventilator treatment.

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Müller said that the epidemic is placing an increasing burden on the health care system, adding that “all of our health care institutions are undergoing a huge amount of enormous, strained work”. According to the national chief medical officer, the decisions made by the government on Tuesday are extremely important, and the measures are aimed at keeping hospitals operational.

Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, when asked what the prime minister had meant on Tuesday in his statement that Hungary’s hospitals could be pushed to the limits of their capacity by December, said that 32,000 of the country’s 66,000-67,000 hospital beds could be occupied by coronavirus patients by the middle of next month. Gulyás said that even according to the most pessimistic estimates, the number of patients who would need to be put on ventilators was not expected to exceed 10,000.

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According to Gulyás, hospitals could make more beds available by suspending non-urgent procedures. Certain hospitals have already postponed them and the government could order all hospitals to do the same, he added. Hungary has enough hospital beds, staff, nurses and doctors at its disposal, the PMO Chief said, adding that there were also plans to enlist junior and senior medical students as assistants.

Featured photo illustration by Károly Árvai/kormany.hu