The suspension of patient admissions at all four state General Hospitals was one of the initial fears that was expressed by the state health services organization (SHSO), which oversees the island’s public hospitals that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus’ Apostolos Tomaras, in the early days of the Covid-19 oubtreak of the island, a SHSO official had characterized the potential suspension of public health services as a result of the pandemic as a nightmarish scenario.
While this scenario is now a reality, the current state of affairs appears to not be a source of major concern as of yet, and seems to be under relative control.
Almost a month into the outbreak of coronavirus in Cyprus, with all four public hospitals not accepting new patients, the major question lies in what, or who, is at fault.
If the developments concerning medical professionals and public hospitals, which were severely hit by the pandemic, are taken into consideration, the situation points to a two-sided coin. Characteristic of the situation is the developments at the Nicosia and Paphos General Hospitals.
Coronavirus broke out in Cyprus, sending waves of shock across the medical landscape and the public. News that the first confirmed case was a doctor, head of unit at the Nicosia General Hospital, drove the political leadership to take its first measures.
The contact of the doctor with patients and medical staff, had turned into a nightmare until the bulk of results from coronavirus tests had been released. Even so, the way in which the situation developed, on the one hand brought relief on a political and medical level and on the other hand created substantial questions regarding the factors that blocked the transmission of the virus to the 152 contacts of the doctor.
One of the scientific opinions that were later expressed, is that the disinfected environment of the unit that the doctor headed may have prevented the spread of the virus.
On its part, the SHSO did not provide a further explanation, and referred all seeking an explanation to the Health Ministry’s Epidemiological Surveillance Unit.
A second confirmed case involving a medical professional who worked in the ICU of the Nicosia General’s Cardiac Care Unit, has more recently tested positive for the virus, intensifying the already charged climate.
The situation at the Nicosia General Hospital seems to have steered clear of the worst, though the same cannot be said for the Paphos General, which is in its second week of ‘lockdown’ for new admissions.
So far, 23 medical and paramedical staff at the Paphos General have tested positive for the virus, with the Pathology clinic deemed a hub for the spread of coronavirus, as it was treating a patient since early February that was later confirmed as a coronavirus carrier.
Opinions on the matter seem to point to a visitor of the patient as the source of the virus, with the infected patient then infecting hospital staff.
The weakness of hospital units to block out the virus was highlighted after another case was confirmed in the Larnaca General’s Pathology unit.
Significant questions are being raised over why stricter measures regarding visitors to hospitalized patients were not taken earlier, in particular after the confirmation of a coronavirus case in the Nicosia hospital, safeguarding patients and medical staff.
Another factor gathering heavy criticism and concern is the shortage of medical equipment in hospitals, particularly in the Paphos General.
As advocated by members of the medical community, health professionals did not have at their disposal equipment suited to protect them against infections. Indicatively, it has been reported that doctors were wandering around inside the hospital with the well-known white medical aprons that in no way meet the standards currently in place.
Those voicing criticism have also expressed concern over inadequate planning, referring to the situation in the ICUs of the island’s hospitals, for which it has yet to be determined which cases they will treat (coronavirus or not).
Critical voices are confident that major issues will arise as the Famagusta General Hospital, the coronavirus reference hospital, will prove unable to meet the needs that will arise as the pandemic continues to grow on the island.
According to the same voices, the SHSO will possibly scramble to find alternative solutions, such as the designation of the Nicosia and Limassol General Hospitals as reference points for the virus, as the two combined can offer 48 ICU beds.
The State Health Services Organization
On its part, in view of the heavy blow to the healthcare system posed by high numbers of medical staff infected with the virus, the SHSO has said that measures have been taken such as a ban on visitations and frequent disinfection of hospital premises.
In addition, measures have been applied in staff rotations, with staff keeping to the same groups per shift.