Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Bulgaria as hospitals in Sofia near capacity

Severe shortage of ambulances in Sofia cause them to take 6-7 hours to arrive at an address

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Bulgaria as hospitals in Sofia near capacity

"There is a severe personnel deficit in the emergency care units in Sofia. Ambulances sometimes take 6-7 hours to arrive at an address," the spokesperson for the Center for Emergency Care in Sofia Katia Sungarska told bTV.

"This is an incredibly long time but when there is no one to do it, the vicious circle is spinning too fast. Our ambulances are at other addresses at the same time" she said.

In her words, in order to visit all the addresses, just for Covid-19 patients, an ambulance team has to cover four or five places in an hour’s time. Not to mention, after each visit to a Covid-19 patient the team must return to headquarters to undergo disinfection procedures, not just the personnel but the vehicle as well.

"When we take a Covid-19 patient is severe condition, we also need to consult the coordination center, where a second specialist will examine the patient. […] But the beds [designated for Covid-19 patients] are one or two and by the time the ambulance reaches Pirogov [Hospital], the beds are already taken" Sungarska explained concerning the shortage of beds and the emerging reports about ambulances carrying patients from hospital to hospital, unable to admit them for lack of Covid-19 designated beds.

She concluded the emergency care in Sofia is at capacity and "we must employ all available resourced to get through this pandemic," referring to a recent idea for taxis, police cars and private ambulances to help the Emergency Care Center is transporting patients.

Covid-19 cases have been surging in the past couple of months in Bulgaria with daily cases surpassing 1000 in the past two weeks. The newly reported cases in the past 24 hours are 1225 of only 5457 processed PCR tests, or 22% positive rate. 19 people with the virus have died since yesterday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1298.

Meanwhile, Minister of Healthcare Kostadin Angelov announced the ministry will begin mass checks in the hospitals and threatened healthcare facilities, which haven’t yet established Covid-19 wards with fines.

The minister’s harsh approach comes after several cases of hospitals refusing to admit Covid-19 patients and ambulance delays.

The Bulgarian National Television aired a report several days ago, witnessing the director of Sofia’s Fourth City Hospital refusing to admit a Covid-19 patient for not having a PCR test result printed out. The patient is confirmed to have Covid-19 and his condition had worsened. An ambulance took him to the Fourth City Hospital, after the Coordination Center instructed the doctor to take the patient there. However, the director of the hospital refused over the phone because the patient hadn’t the PCR test result with him. We witness next the doctor arguing with the director over the phone, the director’s final refusal to admit the patient, and the subsequent decision from the doctor on duty "at my own risk" to admit the patient, defying the director’s instruction.

The Angelov commented on his Facebook page the reporting in a very heated voice, pointing out as well that per an order by the ministry issued back in the early days of the state emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, a "test for a coronavirus infection cannot be a condition for hospitalization." He concluded with a pledge to introduce a bill to Parliament to ban hospitals, which refuse to establish Covid-19 wards, from receiving public funding through the National Health Insurance Fund. He also called on Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova to request the resignation of the director of Sofia’s Fourth City Hospital.

Just a day after the reporting by BNT, news broke of a 33-year-old man dying from Covid-19 after waiting hours for an ambulance to arrive. The man had been prescribed home treatment but his condition suddenly deteriorated. His family called an ambulance at 6:30 PM, which arrived at 10:30 PM only to declare the man had died.

The Emergency Care Center in Sofia commented that unfortunately, this is not an isolated case and has been happening for weeks.

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