Due to hospital evacuations in preparation for the mass infections during the coronavirus crisis, hospitals are dismissing patients who are suffering from chronic diseases or in helpless states to clear a total of 36,000 hospital beds. While the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) asked the government in an open letter to communicate transparently about the changes due to the epidemic situation instead of ad hoc ministerial instructions, Minister of Human Resources Miklós Kásler said that the MOK conflates politics with professional issues and accuses the organization of creating tension in the country.
MOK asks Minister Kásler to “explain what is happening in the country”
In an open letter, the Hungarian Medical Chamber asked Miklós Kásler to communicate systematically and transparently about the transformation in the healthcare institutions due to the epidemic situation, instead of ad hoc ministerial instructions issued in letters. According to the MOK, it is difficult to build trust in the profession if they do not see well-founded plans, and short-term reorganizations that seem professionally unjustified have led to serious problems of medical ethics and conscience.
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The medical chamber lacks the background calculations from the transformations and evacuations and they find it problematic to be notified of the next steps of the coronavirus prevention from ministerial letters, but they don’t know the exact schedule and the expected schedule of the preparation.
The MOK presidency would also like to have access to ministerial instructions – which are not available either in the official bulletin or on the ministry’s website – to assist physicians in carrying out their tasks. Their ethical guidelines for the management of COVID-19 also strengthens social trust because it indicates that patients are being treated scientifically.
Kásler: Protective measures successful, MOK creates tension with open letter
Commenting on remarks made in an open letter by the MOK, Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler said that all the required information had been communicated to them, press conferences had been held every day by the operative board in charge of efforts against the virus, the medical college had prepared professional guidelines, all questions of the hospitals had been answered, and a central telephone number was available for any further questions.
According to Kásler, an open letter does not help professional dialogue. The minister said the letter, “which is already being distributed on social media, is misleading. This creates tension and uncertainty in the system- when it is precisely collaboration that would be appropriate!”
On Monday, in an interview with public radio Kossuth Radio, Kásler said that Hungary’s protective measures against the novel coronavirus pandemic have been successful and the number of infections and deaths have been “very favorable” compared to other countries. He added that the government has made preparations for a worst-case scenario in order to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system. According to the minister, the reason hospital beds have been freed up is to enable the system to cater to every patient in case the spread of the virus gets out of control due to an unforeseeable reason.
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Kásler emphasized that only those patients are allowed to be sent home who can get the required care at home. He encouraged those that disagree with a hospital’s decision to consult their patients’ rights representative, the hospital management, the health state secretary’s office, or the National Public Health Center and promised that every case would be reviewed.
8000 ventilators and intensive care beds: Are they needed to treat coronavirus patients?
On Sunday, PM Orbán visited Ajka hospital to check the bed clearances and the preparedness of the institution. He told hospital director Zoltán Nagy that by May 3rd- the culmination of the epidemic, according to experts – Hungary could provide 5000 ventilators. The Prime Minister added that “if necessary, we can get up to 8000 devices. This number should be sufficient even during a war.”
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In connection with Orbán’s statements of the number of ventilators needed, health expert Gabriella Lantos wrote an article to news portal 24.hu, titled “Eight thousand ventilators and 36,000 hospital beds have become the new fence.”
Lantos wrote that if we compare the Hungarian case numbers with countries of similar size and in the same stage of the infection, we can see that the number of tests is the lowest in Hungary (even less than in Sweden, although they tried to achieve herd immunity). Based on the number of deaths, Hungary is among the least affected European countries. However, the total number of reported cases in relation to the dead is unrealistic. It is much more likely that the total number of positive cases are roughly around six thousand.
Lantos also raised the question of the probability of 8000 ventilators needed. According to her calculations, as 80% of those with coronavirus infection do not need hospital treatment and the proportion of serious cases is around 15%, the currently available intensive care beds (around 840) and ventilators will only be needed if the number of active patients is 16,800 at a time. Even if the Italian epidemic example was about to occur in Hungary and there were hundreds of thousands of active patients at a time, then only 20,000 beds would be needed.
The need for the 8000 ventilators, projected by the PM would only be needed if the number of active cases in Hungary at a time would increase to 160,000. Such a number of cases has not occurred in any European country so far.
Lantos concludes that while based on the numbers, there is no reality to the situation envisioned by Orbán- in a matter of a few days, hospitals cleared 36,000 hospital beds to be available to cure those infected with the coronavirus. During the last week, a number of stories from desperate relatives circulated in the news, complaining that hospitals have sent home recently amputated and final-stage patients in need of hospice care, many of whom may not survive at home.
featured photo: János Vajda/MTI