20:35 / 23.09.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Hospitals under increasing pressure

Nurses and medical technicians protest new COVID certificate rule.

Nurses and medical technicians protest new COVID certificate rule.

Foto: HTV / HRT

Croatian hospitals are currently treating around 700 COVID-17 patients. Hospitalizations have been ticking up steadily over the past several weeks. 

One of the consequences of a strong tourism season has been increased transmission of the virus in popular tourism areas like Split-Dalmatia County, where hospitals are filling up again with COVID patients. Split-Dalmatia County has also struggled with convincing local residents to get vaccinated.

"Split Clinical Hospital is under a great deal of pressure from seriously ill COVID patients. The statistics in that county have stayed the same since July and they show that only 10% of those hospitalized were vaccinated," said Health Minister Vili Beroš.

Croatia reported 1,373 new coronavirus infections and 15 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday.

Health care workers will be required to have a COVID certificate if they want to continue working starting on October 1. This prompted several hundred nurses and medical technicians to protest in Zagreb on Thursday. They said they objected being pressured to take the vaccine and also demanded better pay and working conditions. It should be noted that those who are not vaccinated do have the option of getting tested regularly, under the new rule. However, government officials have said the state may pay for the testing initially but that footing the bill for testing would be unsustainable in the long run.

"We have to protect our health care workers and our patients. That's the only reason we're introducing this requirement," said health ministry representative Gordan Žanić.

Health Minister Beroš said 9 out of 10 Croatian doctors are vaccinated. He also noted that following the announcement of the new requirement last week, interest for the vaccine among health care workers had more than doubled from the previous week.

The new rules for how the COVID certificate requirement will work are still unclear. No one knows who will be in charge of compliance at health care institutions. The chief administrator of Zadar Hospital, Dr. Željko Čulina said he does not expect this to create problems. He says the number of workers who are vaccinated at his institution is high, around 75%.

"The highest rates of vaccination are among doctors, 80%. Nurses are at around 70%, and non-medical support staff is a bit lower than that," said Dr. Čulina.

The head nurse at the hospital, Darija Katuša, has commented on the possibility that nurses will be checking COVID certificates at the door.

"I cannot say this is the best solution for nurses. However, if this is the order that comes down, I am sure our nurses will comply, especially because nurses are the ones who chart the overall state of health for all employees at Zadar General Hospital,” Katuša said.

Nataša Petrušić, the head of a nursing home in Zemunik, said she did expect some complaints from workers. Around half of her staff is vaccinated, while the rate among patients was 100%, she said.

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