Opposition Politician Claims at Least 16,000 Patients Were Sent Home Amid Hospital Evacuations
Fanni Kaszás 2020.05.27.
The National Health Insurance Fund Manager published the April data on inpatient hospital care on their website. Independent MP Bernadett Szél posted on her Facebook page that from this data, “we can count how many people could have been sent home from the hospitals, as the data shows not only the number of hospital beds, but the bed occupancy as well.” Szél claims that based on these numbers from March to April, the number of beds in use decreased by an average of 16,329.
Back in April, the government had set the goal of emptying a total of 36,000 hospital beds in preparation for the worst-case coronavirus epidemic scenario expected. Hospitals suddenly began freeing up hospital beds with the goal of making 60% of their capacity available in two phases. Reportedly, this resulted in hospitals – often unexpectedly – dismissing patients who suffer from chronic diseases or are in helpless states, by the instruction of the Ministry of Human Resources and Minister Miklós Kásler. This caused difficult situations for patients and relatives of those discharged from hospitals.
In recent days, it stirred up tension that Human Minister Kásler denied being responsible for ‘freeing up’ thousands of hospital beds, it is “not me who conducts the millions of doctor-patient meetings, but the doctors. They have decided, it is their own responsibility.”
Bernadett Szél had previously made a public interest request for data on the exact numbers of beds freed up and the number of patients released to the Ministry of Human Resources, but Minister Kásler did not release the data. However, now the numbers have become public and were published on the website of the National Health Insurance Fund Manager.
According to the data, the average bed occupancy in April was 41.2% (39.3% for active beds and 44.5% for beds occupied by those with chronic diseases). From March to April, there was an average of 8,929 fewer beds in use in active inpatient care and 7,400 less in chronic inpatient care. This means that the total number of beds in use decreased by an average of 16,329 beds from March to April, or in other words, the number of patients cared for decreased by more than 16,000 on average.
In addition, as in March, there were already ministerial instructions in place to release certain hospital beds as well as on restrictions on patient admission. It is also worth comparing April data with February data. Looking at the numbers, the utilization of active and chronic beds was almost halved between February and April, with an average decrease of 24,466.
Within chronic beds, occupancy of rehabilitation beds fell by 57 percentage points between February and April. While bed occupancy in rehabilitation wards was still 87.6% in February, it fell to 30.3% in April, averaging 8,690 beds in general.
Szél added that this data also shows that hospital beds were emptied at a “brutal rate” and that they treated 16-24,000 fewer patients on average in the two months following February. She added that “if we take into account that, according to the data sent as an answer to my question by EMMI, a total of 32,917 beds have been prepared to accommodate patients with coronavirus in various stages – then, the data now published shows that the vast majority of those beds were previously used to treat other patients.”
Referring to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s statement that Minister Kásler has historical merits in defense against the epidemic, Szél added that: “Historical merits? Yes: with a negative sign.”