The survival rate of people on ventilator treatment is frighteningly low in Hungary, according to the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK). The Chamber says that in certain locations around the country, 95 percent of people who end up on ventilators do not recover from the coronavirus.
On Monday, MOK sent a letter to Minister of the Interior Sándor Pintér, stating that “the deaths among those requiring ventilator treatment and intubation are disproportionately high, reaching 95 percent of patients in certain locations.”
Hungary’s Ventilator Treatment Should be Analyzed
Since there is no official data available on the ventilator survival rates for Hungary’s hospitals, the letter states that it would be beneficial to check whether ventilators are being operated properly, as there are “many irrational or qualitatively unacceptable solutions.”
An idea which brought to the government’s attention last year but not put into effect is the measure of which of the two types of oxygen treatment are safer and more effective.
András Késmárky, a family and intensive care doctor, finds that whoever is on invasive ventilation (the delivery of oxygen using endotracheal intubation on an anesthetized patient) has a much lower chance of survival than a patient treated with non-invasive ventilation (the delivery of oxygen using a face mask on a conscious patient without endotracheal intubation).
Workforce, Oxygen Shortages at Hospitals
László Szijjártó, president of Győr-Moson-Sopron county’s Hungarian Medical Chamber, said that the chamber had already been receiving news from hospitals reporting far higher deaths than those in Western Europe.
The high death rate may be attributed to the worker shortages in Hungary’s healthcare.
Szijjártó told 168.hu that there are plenty of beds and ventilators in Hungary, but there continues to be a shortage of doctors and nurses. This shortage costs lives, since nurses and doctors are forced to take on too many patients and cannot provide the same quality of treatment due to being overburdened.
The county chamber president believes one of the main mistakes of healthcare is that the distribution of patients is not optimized, and the capacity of individual hospitals is not taken into consideration. This is made clear, he says, by the fact that there are hospitals with plenty of free space near hospitals that are over capacity.
Decisionmakers should speak to those who are actually laboring away at sickbeds. Watered down reports and statistics can only lead to decisions that lead to people dying. We could be saving far more lives in Hungary than we are right now.”
Many anonymous healthcare workers have reported to 168.hu from various parts of Hungary that they often run out of oxygen for their patients. László Szijjártó says hospitals have turned to the Medical Chamber for help as well, but due to the lack of quality control, the exact number of hospitals facing such problems is unknown, and individual calls for help are difficult to report.
Ágnes Daróczy-Gaál, vice president of the Hungarian Doctors’ Union, told ATV that since the healthcare system is so short staffed, the more people there are on beds the lower each individual’s chances of survival are.
If there are 50 beds in an intensive unit, but there is only enough personnel for 15 people, every extra patient who is taken on to the remaining 35 beds deteriorates the original 15 patients’ chances of survival. […] We can fill up all 50 beds with patients, but that will result in 50 people lying on 50 beds, each with a 2-3 percent chance of survival.”
She stated that every medical institution in Hungary is triaging, operating in a way that focuses aid on those patients who have the highest likelihood of survival, since trying to focus on everyone at once would result in even lower chances of recovery.
“No One Will Notice if Healthcare Fails”
Minister of Human Resources Miklós Kásler previously said on the Bayer Show that hospitals do not face any problems, and that Hungary’s healthcare system “has not even been shaken by the pandemic.”
The minister said the level of organization and the amount of resources at the disposal of Hungary’s healthcare system makes it one of the best in Europe. Kásler believes Hungary can only falter if a “unique catastrophe” occurs.
László Szijjártó told hvg.hu that no one will notice if Hungary’s healthcare falls apart, since it is no longer a nationally cohesive, rational operation, the absence of which would be noticed. He said that while propaganda may help keep people’s spirits up, this one-sided conveyance of information ruins society’s performance and chances of survival.
If no one needed to fear the consequences of what they say, people would not avoid speaking up when there is a problem. […] Those downstairs are afraid of mistakes while those upstairs are afraid of responsibility.”
Szijjártó believes it is unfair of government officials to constantly refute similar statements made by doctors, especially when it comes to peoples’ lives.
The censorship of hospitals is also a strong contributor to people not noticing the state of Hungarian healthcare. The government’s selective portrayal of the situation in hospitals, the secrecy around hospitals, and the exclusion of independent media all impact general awareness around the issue.
This, added to the fact that officials share minimal information about the pandemic compared to other countries, contributes to the blurry overall picture the public is provided for the situation healthcare is in.
Pulmonologist: International Protocol Faulty
Flavia Groșan, a Romanian pulmonologist working in Nagyvárad (Oradea), believes the international Covid protocol is ineffective. Groșan says oxygen is being overdosed in hospitals, causing patients to suffer from edemas that lead to their death.
She says the 20-liter oxygen dose recommended by the international protocol is too high, and instead suggests 2-3 liters of oxygen, saturated above 80%, per minute, 4-5 hours a day.
They do not realize that while oxygen keeps patients saturated, it also increases the level of carbon dioxide in the brain. This can cause cerebral edemas and death.”
Groșan also opposes the use of medicines containing codeine, since they inhibit patients’ ability to cough up lung secretions, making them feel like they are suffocating. Groșan says this leads to the patient panicking and being put on oxygen treatment.
There are currently 1,512 people on ventilator treatment in Hungary, and new infections are at an all-time high. Projections indicate that the coronavirus will begin to wane near the end of April, however this is not a given. Regardless of when the pandemic ends, the government should be doing everything in its power to help healthcare workers provide the best possible quality of treatment.
Featured photo illustration by Károly Árvai/MTI/kormany.hu