The Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) shared a statement on Tuesday speaking in length about why it would be important for journalists to enter and report on Hungary’s hospitals. The Chamber has already voiced its support for the open request of 28 media outlets to enter hospitals, which was rejected by government officials. This statement, however, makes a detailed argument as to why the government should rethink its approach. Appearing to counteract the calls for more transparency by journalists and doctors, the Hungarian government has banned members of parliament from entering and reporting on hospitals, and has begun sharing less data around the developments of the epidemic.
The Hungarian Medical Chamber said that healthcare workers are fighting a huge battle every day for the lives of the Hungarian people, and are strained to their limits attending to the continuously arriving patients.
We would – abstaining from all political intentions – like it if their struggle and their situation would be made visible and publishable, and if they could, along with the media, freely report and provide coverage on the situation.”
MOK: Hungarian Hospital Awareness Beneficial
The Medical Chamber shared a list of reasons specifically backing up their statement. They believe independent media should be allowed into Hungarian hospitals:
- because seeing the objective size of the problem, along with its realistic images, would strengthen individual responsibilities and individual protection against the pandemic. More people would practice social distancing, wear masks, and follow hygienic rules; thus, the number of infections and their accompanying burden would be significantly reduced,
- because unrealistic expectations of healthcare and pandemic protection would be rethought after seeing the struggle and the situation healthcare workers are in,
- because the pandemic denying, vaccine skeptic voices would be reduced, and the willingness to be vaccinated – low in comparison to international examples – would grow significantly. This would speed up and allow for herd immunity,
- because healthcare workers deserve their heroism to be seen,
- and because unity against the pandemic would be strengthened.
Medical Chamber Calls for Better Gov’t Reports
MOK also requests, in the interest of realistic judgement, effective Covid strategy, and equal sharing of the burden, that objective information around COVID-19 be shared with more detail.
For example, the Chamber says, it would be important, beside those being treated in Hungary’s hospitals, intensive care, and on ventilators, to share the number of people who arrive to hospitals daily, as well as the number of people who are removed from hospital care because of death or recovery. MOK will gladly aid in the processing of such data.
The chamber finishes its statement saying:
With the above specified reasons, we ask decision makers, in addition to sharing the specified epidemiological data, to allow the media to provide realistic coverage of hospitals and epidemiological care centers, as well as giving healthcare workers the freedom to report on the issue. At the same time, we ask media and healthcare workers to, living up to their responsibility, provide objective coverage equally on the difficulties of epidemiological control, its pitfalls, its successes, and its high points.”
MPs Not Allowed Into Hungary’s Hospitals
The requests of the chamber and various media outlets have seemingly acted against them, since the government, instead of listening to them, has chosen to take even more control over the situation.
Parliamentary representatives have previously been allowed to enter and report on hospitals, some more likely to be permitted than others. Now, however, even they have been disallowed from entering.
Social-liberal DK representative Lajos Oláh asked Minister of the Interior responsible for epidemic control Sándor Pintér when members of parliament will be allowed to visit Covid-wards, but to this Pintér only responded that “healthcare institutions are aiming their resources at anti-epidemic operations, thus visitations cannot currently be provided.”
NNK Simplifies Reports on Covid in Wastewater
Aside from restricting representatives, the Hungarian government has also begun sharing less detailed data on the epidemic, data which has previously been important to allow the public to measure the virus’ developments.
The concentration of Covid in wastewater has been an effective measure of determining ahead of time which cities are the most likely to face a strengthening or a weakening of the virus.
The National Public Health Center (NNK) has been responsible for providing detailed information on how significant the concentration is in specific areas for 13 weeks. Until now, they have provided graphs and short but detailed summaries of coronavirus concentrations in wastewater.
April 6 marked the 13th week; however, NNK’s report was cut extremely short, lacking anywhere near the same level of detail as previous weeks. The report only shared that “The 13th week marked the country-wide reduction of coronavirus concentrations in wastewater stagnating at a high level over the last few weeks. Despite the gradually decreasing indicator the number of active cases is still high, meaning that it is still just as important to adhere to epidemic measures. The British virus variant is still the most prevalent in wastewater.”
Media outlets have also actively reported NNK’s data to the public, however this deterioration in detail will not help in any way, and is more than likely to leave people guessing about their situation.
With the restrictions on media and political figures, as well as the decreased details provided in government reports, it will be much more difficult to follow the developments of the coronavirus in the coming weeks.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI