Hungarian Medical Chamber rejects minister Kásler's scapegoating

The Hungarian Medical Chamber has released a statement in which they reject being made a scapegoat by the Minister of Human Capcities. Miklós Kásler claims that it is in fact doctors who should be made responsible for the consequences caused by vacating thousands of hospital beds, a move he himself had ordered as a preparation for large-scale infections in the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Not so long ago, the minister actually denied he had ever instructed hospitals in a ministerial decree to make beds available for potential COVID-19 patients.
kórház orvos

Kásler insisted that he is bound for life by the Hippocratic Oath which states that the interest of the patient comes before everything. He said the ministerial decrees were issued during the pandemic in the spirit of the need to take care of every patient whose condition demands it.

It is obvious that it is not me who has a hundred million doctor-patient consultations but the doctors. It was thus their call, it's their responsibility. Who did not follow the ordered was not in harmony of their own Hippocratic Oath

, said the minister. 

Kásler also said that whoever feels that did not get the appropriate care should turn to their hospital director, the patient rights representative or even the ministry itself. 

He recently claimed there had been no instruction to vacate hospital beds (a letter signed by him is proof that he was bending the truth to say the least), arguing that the hospitals "only had to ensure the conditions of expanded treatment and intensive care. However, whether or not there is an epidemic it is the doctors' professional and human responsibility who they send home," he added. 

Hospitals had to make sure there are over 30,000 beds available in only eight days (practically five due to holidays). 

According to the latest available data (mid-April), 66-67% of hospital beds were in use in Hungary. This means that out of the 66,906 hospital beds available about 22,750 (34%) were empty, i.e. patients did not have to be sent home from these. Consequently, hospitals had to vacate 10,700 beds by 19 April (50% cut). Although this is a much lower number than if all hospital beds had been "taken", let's not forget that we're not talking about numbers but people. Nearly 11,000 of them. With families. And societies are made up of and glued together by individuals, families, micro communities.

The ministerial order sparked chaos and outrage, as medical staff began calling relatives to take patients home. The Hungarian Medical Chamber, the country's main professional association of doctors, warned the government in a letter that "uncertainty and tension" are growing within the health system.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán acknowledged that the "military-like" operation caused "discomfort". But he said it was essential in case coronavirus infection numbers surged and overwhelmed hospitals, especially once restrictions of people's movements are relaxed.

Authorities have declined to specify exactly how many patients were sent home.

In the name of the entire medical profession we are rejecting minster Miklós Kásler's statement of today in which he makes doctors responsible for the professional and ethical consequences of his order to vacate hospital beds, while also accusing them of violating their Hippocratic Oath

, the Medical Chamber said in a statement.

The Presidency of the Hungarian Medical Chamber expects that policy makers, ministers who had received a mandate to serve the entire nation always credibly bear the consequences of their decisions

, the MOK added.

Hungary's opposition has also criticized the government's approach.

The decision to vacate hospital beds “is simply cruel from a human rights perspective, and completely unfounded from a medical point of view,” cited Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian doctor and vice chair of the liberal Renew Europe group of lawmakers in the European Parliament.

“Cancer patients, people suffering from bipolar disorder, and recent stroke survivors have been discharged from hospital overnight,” Cseh said. “While only around 1,000 COVID-19 patients require hospital treatment today, the government sent many thousands of seriously ill people home where they have no access to adequate care, medicine, or technical infrastructure that would facilitate their care or recovery.”

The responsible move is to build hospital capacity that would be needed in a worst-case scenario, PM Viktor Orbán said.

AFP reported cases where discharged patients died within days or hours.

Cover photo: Getty Images

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