As of Friday, newly diagnosed coronavirus patients in moderate or serious condition have to be transferred to two specialized hospitals in Budapest. The Operative Board, however, had to clarify its reasoning, as the announcement raised questions and criticism.
The order was published on Friday and entered into effect the same day. The National Korányi Institute of TB and Pulmonology, and the Szent László Hospital, have been appointed for the purpose. This means a return to the practices at the beginning of the epidemic.
The Chief Medical Officer argued that the restrictions implemented in Hungary have kept the infection rate low, and concentrating the treatment of coronavirus patients in two hospitals enables other hospitals to resume normal operations. Cecília Müller also noted that currently 35 hospitals are treating Covid-19 patients.
Since the restrictions are still in force in Budapest (and Pest County), which the government justifies with the high number of infections registered in the capital and its surroundings, and the central government is often criticized for not suspending the political battle during the crisis, the decision regarding the hospitals led certain people of the opposition to thinking that this move might have had political reasons too. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony also brought up the subject and asked whether that measure was prompted by healthcare-related infections in hospitals outside Budapest. It is important to clarify whether those patients appear in the statistics as Budapest residents, he insisted.
In addition, on Monday, two (opposition) healthcare politicians of the Budapest Assembly also stood up against the transports, arguing that in addition to the overloaded Budapest hospitals, any unnecessary transport carries the risk of worsening the patient’s condition while it also significantly increases the number of contacts and the risk of infecting the staff too. Újbuda (11th district) mayor and former hospital director Imre László (Democratic Coalition), added that there was no added value in bringing patients to the capital. While according to Gábor Havasi (Momentum) healthcare advisor, and himself a paramedic, the ambulance system is already overloaded.
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As a result, the Operative Board clarified many features of the decision. They said that transports are only required if the regional hospitals deem it necessary and the two institutions must agree beforehand on the relocation. The board also revealed that both infections and deaths appear in the registries according to addresses.
If the capacity of Budapest institutions are exhausted, patients can be transported to Kiskunhalas, Miskolc, Szekszárd, and Ajka hospitals, or if their capacities are full, to other hospitals with territorial competence. Readiness must be maintained, the Chief Medical Officer insisted.
featured image via Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI