Hungary’s healthcare system is strained further and further everyday, and has exceeded its previously estimated ventilator capacity. Healthcare workers are having increasing difficulty caring for their patients effectively, and hospitals are being overburdened.
The Hungarian government has extended current Covid restrictions by one week due to the significant increase in hospitalizations, deaths, and intensive care patients.
1,340 people are on ventilators while 11,276 are hospitalized. There are 188,525 people actively infected with the virus.
Despite its vaccination record being among the best in the EU, Hungary has the highest number of coronavirus related deaths globally at 19.37 people out of every million.
Hungary’s healthcare system has been strained for the past weeks and numbers continue to grow. There has been no indication that the curve will turn downwards from where it currently is.
PM Orbán: Hospitals can manage problems
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke to the directors of Hungary’s hospitals on two occasions last week, bringing up the question of whether there are enough doctors and nurses available.
Ultimately, the prime minister declared the situation reassuring, and that while every hospital faces difficulties in some area, they can all solve their problems with help.
This is also attributed to the fact that hospital directors have been aware that hospitalizations will continue to increase over the coming weeks.
Despite the reassuring statements, there are clear difficulties which Hungary’s healthcare sector continuously faces that cannot go unnoticed.
Semmelweis Rector Adjusts His Capacity Estimates Once Again
In December, rector of Semmelweis University and advisor of PM Orbán, Béla Merkely stated that Hungary’s maximum ventilator capacity can handle 1,000 people.
Later, he stated that thanks to the vaccination of healthcare workers, hospitals can handle another 20-25 percent, 1200 to 1250 people on ventilators.
Now that the amount of people has surpassed that number and is projected to continue to increase, Merkely has again adjusted his estimate telling RTL News that healthcare workers’ capacity can actually be increased by 25, 50 or even 100 percent.
Hospitals Forced to Take on More Than They Can Handle
Director of the Petz Aladár Hospital in Győr László Jávor stated that the hospital can handle 360 Covid patients, but by Wednesday the number of such patients had reached 371.
He added that it would be very helpful if the hospitals in Zala county would work together more, transferring professionals where they are needed and patients where there is space.
“The pressure on us is huge. Our burden is far heavier than the one we had at the height of the second wave.”
Jávor added that Hungary’s recent healthcare bill did not help either, since the number of healthcare workers who left the field because of it has been felt in the system.
Hungarian Healthcare Continues Triaging
The University of Szeged’s Urology Clinic stated on Facebook that it held a crisis meeting on Saturday, since, due to the worsening pandemic situation, more and more people infected with the coronavirus are being transferred to their pandemic center.
The university’s principal Zoltán Bajory said that starting next week the clinic will only have enough workers to ensure the care of critical cases.
Now, according to the rules, in the current situation we need to prioritize among our patients with tumors and those requiring immediate care those who’s care is the most urgent, and who’s lives are not threatened by continued delay.”
ICUs Being Overburdened, Personnel Shortage
At one Budapest hospital all available caretakers have been sent to intensive units to help specialist nurses and doctors. These include surgeons who have had to postpone surgeries, anesthesiologists, and even physiotherapists and masseuses.
The disproportionate ratio of patients to healthcare workers severely impacts healthcare workers’ mental and physical state, as well as the quality of care they can realistically provide while being overworked.
Normally one specialist nurse is assigned to care for two patients. According to the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors, in the current situation one specialist nurse is assigned 6 to 10 intensive care patients and people on ventilators. The number of assistants they have varies.
Healthcare professional Zsombor Kunetz brought up the difficulty specialist nurses face when providing care. Since they are overburdened by the number of people requiring intensive care, specialists need to pay attention to more patients than they could effectively handle, and the result is that the quality of care is reduced.
Even if they do take on more patients, there is a realistic capacity which each specialist nurse has in providing effective care to their patients. The work of these essential workers cannot be easily emulated, as they are specifically trained to provide care in intensive units.
The main takeaway is, as stated time and time again, that the number of ventilators and hospital beds does not matter if there are not enough healthcare specialists to tend to them effectively.
Hungary’s Healthcare Workers Have No Time For Breaks
RTL News apparently gained access to a document from the Ministry of the Interior, which says that the numbers will continue to deteriorate. They are expecting hospitalizations to grow to 14 thousand, and daily deaths to increase to 250 or even more.
Hospitals are also freeing up space for younger patients afflicted with Covid, RTL says. The Pál Heim Children’s hospital is set to take on young adults up to the age of 35 who require ventilator treatment or intensive care.
Zoltán Szabad, president of the Hungarian Doctor’s Union, said that Hungary’s healthcare workers have no time for breaks, and the more tired a doctor or a specialist is, the more likely they are to make a mistake.
An informant from the healthcare sector told hvg.hu about the state of hospitals in Hungary, and how their employees are being overworked:
Not even colleagues working in emergency and intensive care are used to what we are currently facing. Following the struggle of patients to catch their breath is a terrible feeling, especially when it must be done every day in such a crowded area. At the end of our shifts, we go to the dressing room to cry for ten minutes, then we go home and come back.”
Meanwhile, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás continues to imply that there is no workforce capacity problem in Hungarian hospitals.
There is plenty of evidence that Hungary’s healthcare system is facing a serious crisis. Still, the situation can be overcome if everyone works together and follows the necessary restrictions set in place by the government.
Featured photo illustration by Károly Árvai/MTI/kormany.hu