Opinion: Public Reaction To The Quality Of Hungarian Healthcare

  • 21 Sep 2020 11:33 AM
  • Hungarian Spectrum
Opinion: Public Reaction To The Quality Of Hungarian Healthcare
The Hungarian Medical Association (Magyar Orvosi Kamara/MOK) published four shocking photos on its Facebook page on Friday. Under the photos was the following brief explanation: “Covid center, resting place and bathroom for the doctors. Our colleagues persevere even under these circumstances.”

In no time, hundreds of comments appeared, beginning with a gentleman who called on the person responsible for the photos to report the case to the military commander the Orbán government placed at the head of the hospitals “because unfortunately many hospital directors are totally unfit to run their own institutions.”

Of course, a lot of people attested to the generally rundown state of Hungarian hospitals, but the government also had numerous defenders who claimed that Orbán and company are not responsible for the neglected state of the facilities.

A few people were even convinced that the photos “were the vile forgeries of a lunatic” or, if real, most likely were taken in Romania or Albania.

The early commenters all agreed that MOK made a mistake by not revealing the name of the hospital where these unspeakable conditions exist. At that point MOK explained its reasons for keeping the name of the hospital secret: “the wind is fierce” in the healthcare industry and “the colleagues” are afraid of their superiors.

I assume the “wind” refers to the generally fearful atmosphere that exists in the sector. And those who took the photos and who “work with honor in the care of COVID patients” were afraid to be identified.

So, those who took the photographs were not the patients or visitors to the hospital but the staff itself, and they must be sheltered. MOK does hope that the person who is responsible for the maintenance of the hospital will recognize the hidden corners of his own institution and will remedy the situation.

MOK reassured people that the photos are genuine and disclosed that they were taken in one of the cities with “county rights.” That doesn’t tell us much because, all told, 23 cities are designated as county centers.

MOK’s explanation for its decision to keep the location of this disgusting bathroom a secret didn’t impress devoted Fidesz supporters, who look upon the new leadership of the medical association as a gathering place of “communist snitches” inherited from the Gyurcsány era.

Pro-government commenters are certain that “checking of the facilities is done regularly.” In any case, who would believe that a hospital in that state would be allowed to operate?

Even if such an abominable state of affairs exists, “it shouldn’t be used in the interest of sly criminals.” I guess the sly criminals are the new leaders of the Hungarian Medical Association.

One female commenter proudly announced that in the last three years she visited three hospitals both as a patient and as a visitor. In all three places, the bathrooms were in perfect order. MOK’s photos are not realistic. It must be an old bathroom that hasn’t been used for years.

The bathroom pictured is a stage set that is supposed to create “a public circus.” A doctor claimed that the hospitals where he works as an attending physician have separate resting rooms with television and computers. They look like 5-star hotels.

Among the many unknown real or fictitious names in the comment section, I found one that many people are familiar with: Csaba Böjte from Transylvania, who is a great favorite of the Orbán regime.

Böjte is a Franciscan monk and the director and founder of the Saint Francis Foundation of Deva, Romania. His foundation provides food, housing, and education to homeless orphans and children living in extreme poverty. Currently, 2,500 children are living in the homes and shelters of the foundation.

Father Böjte’s solution to the problem of the hospitals is simple. “If a priest doesn’t keep order in his parish, the bishop would send him packing. It is not the bishop who needs to put things in order, but the one who lives and works there!!

The hospital director should also be sacked if his hospital looks like this. It is not the shame of the state, but of those who work there!” Böjte of course ignores the serious underfinancing and understaffing of the Hungarian healthcare system.

Here and there one can find voices of sanity. A woman reported from “one of these squalid” hospitals where she is being quarantined that “from the inside it seems that renovating this building would require at least as much money as building, let’s say, a stadium.”

Some commenters, as opposed to the timid MOK, are quite ready to point to conditions in specific hospitals as horrific examples of neglect. Péterfy Hospital, which we are familiar with from Reporter’s description, is one of the examples cited. According to a woman, in the internal medicine section of the hospital one can flush the toilet only by pulling a lever in the water tank.

Soon enough the blame was shifted to the government for spending money “on the Romanians,” on stadiums, building hospitals abroad, and giving billions to churches.

As I indicated yesterday, resentment is rising over the Orbán government’s spending sizable sums on improving the lot of the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries, which in many cases is expressed as “money spent on the Romanians.”

A commenter quipped that “the Orbán government renovated 3,000 churches in the Carpathian Basin to provide places of worship for those who are afraid of dying of COVID-19.”

All told, about 15,000 people viewed MOK’s photos and about 500 comments appeared. The pro-Fidesz contingent was large. The opposition is certain that Fidesz activists pay special attention to sites like that of MOK, which is currently considered to be a government-critical organization.

The two political sides leveled the same criticism against MOK — that the medical association should have named the hospital where the photos were taken. I would go even further.

MOK should have collected photos from many of those hospitals where patients and visitors complain about the sanitary condition of the facilities.

Yes, I know it is forbidden to take photos in the hospitals, but, in reality, who could prevent people from taking them? There is strength in numbers.

Photos from one hospital can get one hospital director into trouble, but photos from 10 or 15 hospitals would carry more weight and would make it clear that it is not just negligence that is responsible for the sorry state of Hungarian healthcare.

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Hungarian Spectrum

Hungarian Spectrum features analyses in English about Hungarian political, economic, and cultural news. Its editor and primary pundit is Eva S. Balogh, who formerly taught East European history at Yale University. Guest contributors include Hungarian and international professors, experts and researchers of sociology, international affairs, and political science. The site, which is archived at the Library of Congress, is recognized by diplomats, journalists, scholars, and representatives of non-governmental organizations as a source of thoughtful analysis and high-level discussion of contemporary Hungarian affairs.

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