Coronavirus: Every sixth infected is medical staff

A thorough analysis of the most recent data published by the Public Health Institution on coronavirus cases in Romania provides an alarming conclusion: Almost one in six patients is a member of medical staff, most of them doctors and nurses. Romania had a total 1,029 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday evening; 153 of them were doctors and nurses. The rate of infected hospital personnel in Romania is one and a half times higher than the rate in Italy or France, while the number of confirmed cases is much lower, local news portal maszol.ro reports.

Members of medical personnel, the soldiers on the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus are falling one after another. Hospitals are quarantined and closed, as they become pandemic hot spots, although they are reopened a few days later after a disinfection, But the infected personnel or those suspected of being infected are “eliminated” (out of the workforce) for up to two weeks, as they are quarantined or isolated for 14 days. Half a dozen hospitals or hospital departments have been closed for disinfection throughout the country, and more than 150 doctors and nurses are still currently infected.

The high rate of infections is a consequence of the lack of hospital equipment and the most basic protection materials: There are not enough disinfectant, gloves, goggles, protective suits, etc. The wrong protocols specifying how treatments should be performed may also play an important role, as until recently only patients matching the official definition of a suspected infectious patient were treated by doctors/nurses in protective clothing. This means that only people coming from red zones, or people who were in direct contact with a patient infected with the coronavirus, were treated in such way.

Another problem was that the county health departments, subordinated to the Ministry of Health, only allowed coronavirus tests if a patient’s condition worsened. A good example for this mistake is a case of a man who died on Sunday but had been hospitalized on Monday. Suffering from a fever and a cough, doctors had at first thought he simply had the flu, even though the virus was already in Romania. According to national newspaper Libertatea, his lab tests for flu were negative, but he was tested for coronavirus only on Friday. It took another four days to test those doctors and nurses who had been in contact with him, and this does not even take into account those who were in contact with these doctors and nurses that week. At the end of the day, nobody knows how many people could be infected because of this negligent protocol.

Freshly appointed Health Minister, Nelu Tătaru acknowledged that the medical staff missing because of the virus represents a big problem, but he also pointed out that doctors suspected of having the virus but not showing any symptoms should continue to work in COVID-19 hospitals. He stated that they will apply a new tactic: The composition of the hospital shifts will not change, but doctors who work together in a shift will be placed in a shared accommodation, in hotels if possible, so as not to endanger others, especially their own families.

Title image: The hospital in Suceava is the pandemic hot spot in Romania; just in this hospital 90 doctors and nurses have been infected. Photo: Libertatea.ro

Author: Orsi Sarány