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Hungary’s general healthcare services resume on Monday, May 4th. Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler sent a letter and detailed instructions to the heads of healthcare institutions. According to the minister’s letter, general and pediatric services, midwife care, and basic dental care also resumes.

In the last few months, due to the coronavirus epidemic, everything changed in Hungary’s healthcare system in an instant. To protect patients, hospital staff, and utilize ventilator capacities, thousands of hospital beds were evacuated, entire wards relocated, and in all specialties, the type of services that can be postponed was determined.

Surgeries were postponed, only one relative could be in the operating room at childbirth, and in most hospitals, they had to bring protective clothing due to the shortage. Administration of HPV vaccines, public health screenings, treatment of benign tumors, or cancer prevention treatments have also been postponed.

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News portal Index received a letter in which the Minister wrote: “due to the favorable development of the epidemic situation,”  healthcare services are to restart.

This means that starting today, in compliance with strict hygiene rules, not only are emergency services allowed, but also general practitioners and home pediatric and nursing services, basic dental care, outpatient specialist care, rehabilitation from inpatient specialist care, transplant procedures, specialist dental care, and private care will also be restarted.

Kásler also called for medical procedures that pose a lower risk for COVID-19 transmission and are more urgent for the patient’s health to be performed.

But restrictions and precautions remain in place. For example, a dentist or GP, but also outpatient specialist care, can only be visited after making an appointment by phone. Hygiene standards are being increased, while patients have to keep 1.5-meter distance between each other at all times. Also, every patient must check their temperature upon entering the doctor’s office.

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Dentists and GPs can consult with a maximum of four patients in one hour and offices must be disinfected after each patient.

In the case of outpatient care, the ministry states that an electronic health service needs to be created “that allows for a consultation, communication, and office visit via telephone with patients without physical contact.”

Risky outpatient procedures should only be performed on those who test negative for Covid-19. A protective mask should be provided to patients at the place of treatment.

The above requirements also apply to private healthcare institutions.

Many surgeries canceled

Restarting healthcare services is justified, said physician and health economist Balázs Rékassy to Index, adding that many surgeries have been canceled in the past months, leading to a deterioration in the condition of those patients.

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He noted that it is baffling why these orders which require doctors and healthcare institutions to be ready by Monday had been issued at the end of last week. Rékassy said the services should have been resumed more gradually and the whole process should have been organized better.

According to the expert, ​​several important professional organizations have been left out of the negotiations, and the operation of the institutions should be better coordinated as well.

There are many questions including who will organize and pay for the coronavirus screenings and whether healthcare workers will be tested in addition to patients. According to Rékassy, another key question is the supply of  “human resources” as now not only public but also private care has been restarted.

Károly Árvai/kormany.hu/MTI