Although the number of patients on ventilators is currently relatively low in Hungary, the lack of specialist nurses may soon become a glaring issue. Several Budapest hospitals were already forced to ask for help.
In preparation for the coronavirus epidemic, Hungary ordered a large number of ventilators at the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic in the summer.
The Orbán government had calculated that 10,000 ventilators would be needed in the worst-case scenario, so they ordered over 16,000 with a combined worth of HUF 300 billion (EUR 851m) so that 10,000 would certainly be delivered.
A few days ago, PM Viktor Orbán assured everyone that the healthcare sector is prepared to handle the epidemic and Hungary has all the necessary equipment, hospital beds, ventilators, doctors, and nurses to mount a defense. The more than 10,000 hospital beds available for treating Covid-19 patients could even be doubled or tripled if necessary, he said.
Although the number of patients in need of ventilation have not even come close to this level, many claimed the move to be overly excessive. Meanwhile, experts warn: these machines are basically useless without sufficient technical support and competent human resources needed to operate them.
Ventilator capacity depends on the number of nurses
The upper limit of ventilator capacity can only be determined by the number of ICU nurses, medical researcher Péter Hegyi said at a video conference last week. According to 444.hu, the chairman of the Translational Medicine Foundation said that expecting more than three thousand ICU beds to function is thus completely unrealistic.
Hegyi also outlined that ideally, two specialist nurses are required for one coronavirus patient. At the beginning of the year, this requirement was met; in April, however, intensive care bed capacity went up from 1,000 to 2,000, while the number of nurses remained.
Taking into consideration work shifts, subsequent rest days, and the fact that spending more than eight hours in FFP masks is not allowed because it endangers the health of the staff, in reality, one coronavirus patient would in fact require six nurses.
Even though the foundation reported its conclusion to the operative board, the government still decided to buy 16,000 ventilators.
Right now, 328 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospital, out of which only 21 are on ventilators, but some of the capacity problems have already started to surface.
Specialist hospitals ask for help
Right as the number of coronavirus infections has started to rise rapidly in Hungary, several hospitals assigned to be the primary institutions for coronavirus patients with moderate and severe symptoms have made an SOS call.
Following Szent László Hospital and the National Korányi Institute of Pulmonology, Szent János Hospital is also asking for additional workers, as due to the surge of coronavirus patients, the staff is no longer able to perform their tasks, news site Index reports.
The portal notes that although Szent János Hospital was able to carry out all their additional tasks during the first wave in the spring, it is now struggling under the number of patients. All departments in the hospital are operating at almost full capacity.
Featured photo by Károly Árvai/kormany.hu/MTI