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Coronavirus: Mayors Call on Gov’t to Test Hospital Patients before Sending Back to Care Homes

Fanni Kaszás 2020.04.15.

In a joint letter, 42 mayors called on the Prime Minister not to allow hospitals to send home patients from hospitals without negative coronavirus tests. The mayors of the opposition-run cities and districts of Budapest, as well as the Budapest mayor, all signed a letter calling on the government to immediately order coronavirus testing of residents and workers in all care homes in the country and for the entire social welfare system too.

The opposition mayors of 42 cities and Budapest districts said in their joint statement that “the increasing number of cases related to care homes across the country clearly shows that the current procedure is inadequate, the lack of screenings and their classification as” unnecessary costs” may cost us many people’s lives.”

Therefore, mayors are demanding that hospitals should not be able to send patients back without testing  negative. In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, they refer to the legislation in force, which clearly obliges government agencies to provide the conditions for performing laboratory tests during an epidemic, and the materials and equipment needed to prevent and help curb the spread of the infection.

The letter closes by stating that “…government bodies are currently not performing their statutory duties to protect human lives. We are worried about our seniors and workers, and we cannot allow a faulty and irresponsible government attitude, and a lack of testing endanger their health and lives. We have run out of patience! Start testing now!”

The letter was signed by Gergely Karácsony (Mayor of Budapest), László Botka (Mayor of Szeged), Péter Márki-Zay (Hódmezővásárhely), Attila Péterffy (Pécs), and Ádám Mirkóczki (Eger), among others. News portal 24.hu published the letter with the full list of the mayors without modifications.

As we also reported earlier, positive coronavirus infections were registered in several nursing homes around the country. The worst situation is in the care home on Pesti road, run by the municipality of Budapest, where more than two hundred people are infected and more than 10 people have already died from the disease. From Pesti road, all infected patients have been transported to hospitals, while the care home was disinfected over the weekend.

Coronavirus: Chief Medical Officer Orders Investigation in Care Home

Since then, a dozen infected people have been isolated in the Rózsa Street care home as well, where 60 out of the 94 residents were infected with the disease. A few days ago, the coronavirus also appeared in a Dunakeszi psychiatric home. The institution is home to patients with chronic psychiatric illnesses. In one of the institutions of Olajág Otthonok in Zugló, five residents became infected with the coronavirus. The disease also appeared in several homes in the countryside: 8 elderly people with coronavirus were previously found in Nagymágocs, then the Szent József Home in Érd was placed under epidemiological observation, and patients were also isolated in the care home of Borsodnádasd.

Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony was told of patients who had been sent back from hospitals to the care homes on Rózsa Street and Pesti Road without having been tested for coronavirus. Karácsony also posted on Facebook that the municipality calls on the government to immediately change its standpoint on prohibiting screening, which sees it as an “unnecessary cost.” He added that all care homes for the elderly should be screened nationwide.

Karácsony on Coronavirus Infections in Retirement Home: Budapest Done Everything It Could

As per the post and the opinion of several other mayors around the country, the biggest problem with the care homes is that elderly patients were sent back from the hospitals without being tested, allowing the disease to enter the homes. National Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said at the usual daily press briefing of the operative board, that two negative tests are needed for everyone; however, if testing is not possible, those returning from hospital treatment to a nursing home should be quarantined for two weeks. She emphasized that testing can only show the virus after some days; therefore, people in the incubation period cannot be identified. So she believes a 2-week quarantine is more important than testing.

Many argue however, that quarantining those who show symptoms are not enough, as the incubation period is 7-14 days at least and during this time, even though patients may not show symptoms they can still infect others with the disease. Since the test in itself is not entirely accurate or enough, the safest method would be to combine the two: before returning to their care homes, elderly patients should be tested, and if they test positive they should be quarantined,  even if asymptotic.

featured photo: Márton Mónus/MTI