The President has been tested for Covid-19 34 times since the start of the pandemic. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
Us doctors can only silently watch this ship drift off in the wrong direction. We put on our uniforms and we care for our personal fates – whether we are going to survive, and how we can keep our families safe.
Dr Dejan Zujovic
My country’s President gave an announcement today. He listed facts, explaining that he shares the fate of the people he is leading. No perks, or magic pills. Explained that this pandemic is affecting him as much as any citizen. He forgets, though, what he had said just a day prior, and how that differentiates him from every other citizen of the Republic of Serbia. The President has been tested for Covid-19 34 times since the start of the pandemic. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
This epidemic has exposed every weakness of our society. It is now clear to everyone that this job cannot be done by politicised experts, bad medical students, or politicians. It’s exposed a complete unfitness of the system to handle a phenomenon like this. It’s shown spatial and staffing issues, as well as shortcomings when it comes to the number of machines, tests, the volume of medication. It’s shown the government’s readiness to manipulate official data for political gain.
We as a society have failed the test. We tolerate irresponsible individuals, we give space on our Feeds to various conspiracy theories. A solid portion of our society believed that should Mr Trump get re-elected, Covid would magically disappear. That we are being poisoned, that doctors are killing patients by using the ventilators. We haven’t shown even a smidgen of solidarity, which was so desperately needed.
There was no cooperation with our neighbours either. The expert teams in the Western Balkan Countries haven’t actually met, exchanged information, or tried to coordinate action to soften the consequences. They were racing for success, like immature children, each on their own half-sunken boat.
This epidemic has exposed the lack of purposefulness of any medical union in this country. Since the beginning of the year, none have given any announcements, given suggestions or criticism of the work of the Crisis Management Committee. Us doctors can only silently watch this ship drifting off in the wrong direction. We put on our uniforms and we care for our personal fates – whether we are going to survive, and how we can keep our families safe. Simultaneously, an invisible authority figure whispers in our ear, warning us not to run control PCR tests. One test’s buying price is 20 euros and it is significantly lower than the cost of one hospital day. How many doctors have raised their voices against this recommendation? How many doctors insist on contact tracing? We cannot win this fight without epidemiological efforts, even if it means having to hire non-medical volunteers. This battle is not taking place in hospital rooms and with people on ventilators. The people in the suits are indeed our heroes, but that does not mean we are to exhaust them to their limits. Ladies and gentlemen epidemiologists, it’s your turn. Control self-isolation and trace contacts. Period.
This epidemic has shown a lack of care for our healthcare, a lack of development plans or any strategy. The populist manoeuvre of giving each citizen of this country 100 euros turned out to be much more costly than a yearly investment in the healthcare system. Public sector employment ban has equalised medical doctors with front desk workers at any institution. And then came payback time. Covid patients are being treated by endocrinologists, surgeons, orthopaedis, residents…
I sincerely hope that our society will at some point demonstrate solemnity, learn the lessons from this situation which will one day pass, and understand the importance of the healthcare system as a common good, there to help each member of our community. Take care and stay healthy!
Dr Dejan Zujovic is a pulmonologist, and head of the Interventions Unit at the City Institute for Lung Disease and TB in Belgrade. He is also Covid-19 convalescent. He was transferred to the Covid hospital at the Dr Dragisa Misovic Hospital Center from his regular posting, where he was infected by corona virus which he successfully defeated.