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Hungary’s Healthcare Exceeds Estimated Ventilator Capacity, Projected to Get Worse

Tamás Vaski 2021.03.22.

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.

Coronavirus: Hospital Numbers, Patients on Ventilators at New Record High
Coronavirus: Hospital Numbers, Patients on Ventilators at New Record High

Fully 189 generally elderly patients with co-morbidities died over the past 24 hours, while 9,046 new infections were registered, koronavirus.gov.hu said on Monday. The number of active infections has risen to 188,525, while hospitals are caring for 11,276 Covid patients, 1,340 of whom need respiratory assistance. Altogether 43,961 people are in official home quarantine, and […]Continue reading

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.

Orbán: Restrictions to Stay in Place for at Least One More Week
Orbán: Restrictions to Stay in Place for at Least One More Week

Coronavirus-related restrictions could be eased when the number of vaccinated Hungarians reaches 2.5 million, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public Kossuth Radio on Friday morning. Current restrictions will remain in place unchanged for at least one more week from Monday, the prime minister said. He added that the decision had been made for one week […]Continue reading

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.

Variety of Approved Covid Vaccines Advantageous for Hungary, says Med Uni Rector
Variety of Approved Covid Vaccines Advantageous for Hungary, says Med Uni Rector

Having as many as five Covid-19 vaccines approved by Hungary’s drug authority is an advantage in the fight against the disease, Béla Merkely, the rector of Budapest’s medical Semmelweis University, said on Sunday. Public trust in the vaccine is continuously rising, Merkely told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, adding that 99.9 percent of doctors and 87 […]Continue reading

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 Unsettling Reality of COVID-19 Shown in Semmelweis Uni's Photo Report
The Unsettling Reality of COVID-19 Shown in Semmelweis Uni's Photo Report

Semmelweis University’s Clinic of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care (AITK) published a photo report of its yellow and red zones. This is the first part of a photo series with which the university seeks to shed light on the areas of the its healthcare department that are most directly impacted by the coronavirus. Semmelweis’ article states […]Continue reading

“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.

Hungary's Healthcare Close to Capacity of Effective Ventilator Treatment
Hungary's Healthcare Close to Capacity of Effective Ventilator Treatment

Hungary’s healthcare system is overburdened and understaffed. The nationwide total capacity of effective ventilator care is being reached, and some hospitals are already resorting to prioritizing patients with higher chances of survival, according to reports. The rate of infection does not seem to be waning. There are currently 10,284 people hospitalized due to the coronavirus, […]Continue reading

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.

Surge in Covid Cases Begins to Overwhelm Hungary’s Healthcare System
Surge in Covid Cases Begins to Overwhelm Hungary’s Healthcare System

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is now putting significantly more pressure on Hungary’s healthcare system than ever before. More and more hospitals are operating at their maximum capacity, younger and healthier people are being infected more frequently, and deaths are increasing. The sudden surge is taking a terrible toll on healthcare workers’ mental […]Continue reading

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.

More Younger People Hospitalized in Third Wave
More Younger People Hospitalized in Third Wave

The younger generation’s exposure appears to be increased in the coronavirus’ hard-hitting third wave, according to officials.  It was the South Pest Hospital Center’s chief infectologist, János Szlávik who first spoke of a shift towards the younger generations. At the end of February, he said that according to their observations, people aged 40-50 without any […]Continue reading

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.

Govt Info Centre Officially Announces Details of Lockdown Measures
Govt Info Centre Officially Announces Details of Lockdown Measures

Hungary’s government has taken strict lockdown measures in the hope that the third wave of coronavirus infections could be tackled and life could return to normal by Easter, the Government Information Centre told MTI on Friday. The related government decree was published in the Friday afternoon issue of the official gazette Magyar Közlöny. Shops, with […]Continue reading

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