Halo Novini’s interview with Health Minister in the shadows behind KSČM Soňa Marková
Protecting citizens’ health may not be a priority for the government
For more than a year, the Czech healthcare system has been exposed to possibly its largest stress test, the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. How do you think it worked? Did the doctors, nurses, and other staff pass this test?
The Czech healthcare system, in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, has survived mainly due to utmost commitment and dedication by healthcare professionals. This was despite the fact that the pandemic had long since faced unresolved issues related to the lack of funding for the system, the shortage of thousands of doctors and nurses, especially in acute hospital hospitals, and the lack of the concept of long-term care, financing of health and health services. social services. Engaging volunteers, medical students, soldiers and firefighters was also important. Many thanks to all of them.
Can you also assess the steps the government has taken, especially the health ministers, who have changed a lot over the past year?
It is almost surprising that we are in a situation where the number of infected people is finally decreasing, the number of people hospitalized due to Covid and the number of severe cases in intensive care units are decreasing. The government has demonstrated utter inefficiency, anarchy, and unpredictability in the restrictive measures and solutions adopted. At the same time, “skeletons in the treasury” were exposed in the form of an old pandemic plan, a dysfunctional Central Committee for Epidemiology, and a disregard for the entire spectrum of public health protection, including medical protection stocks. The devices are within the state’s material reserves. The need to purchase curtains and respirators in the first phase of the pandemic and subsequent COVID-19 tests led representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Interior to exaggerated opaque purchases in the event of actual misuse of the emergency. This is also confirmed by the SAO discovery. The fact that no one is dealing with it now is a scandal.
Politicians ’interference in the experts’ recommendations led to the rotation of health ministers and their deputies as an “astronomical clock” and certainly did not contribute to better crisis management. The Czech Republic has never been prepared for a pandemic, and it is not only this government that is responsible for it, but previous governments as well. This can be proven through the example of one of the most important articles in the fight against the Coronavirus, the Hygiene Service. Until 2003, it was at its highest level. Then the health stations were divided into offices and medical facilities, that is, medical institutes, and their functions gradually weakened. This was followed by an affirmation of official performance, a reduction in finances and staff numbers, including the abandonment of the only physician with appropriate certification as chief and regional hygienist. After the targeted devastation in 2006-2010 under the ODS government and 09 TOP, health services became an unattractive field so much that at the end of 2020 only 369 employees remained in the public health protection and support departments for the entire country. The treatment is not easy or fast.
Likewise, the fact that 3,000 doctors and 2,400 nurses were missing in acute hospital care before the Coronavirus and since 2012 has “disappeared” or 10,000 beds have been changed. Although we are mindful of the development of medicine, the transition to day-of-day surgery and the possibility of shifting some procedures to outpatient care, the lack of healthcare and efforts to save at any cost have led to non-systematic steps that have been reflected in the management of the current epidemic.
Although the epidemic appears to be on the decline, vaccination problems still remain How do you assess the government’s approach in this direction, has it chosen the right strategy?
The vaccination strategy was introduced late and was randomly implemented due to lack of vaccines. In addition, the government has never managed media communications, not only for vaccination, but also for citizens throughout the epidemic. The performance of government officials, who were able to change their views and actions in a single day or even a few hours, continues to arouse great mistrust among the citizens. Also, ignoring expert opinions, pursuing political points before elections, and not being able to use sufficient understandable arguments.
The vaccination strategy was prioritized, in principle, correctly, since it was necessary to protect the most vulnerable groups – the elderly, health professionals and the chronic patients. Unfortunately, the inability to provide an adequate number of vaccines and the increased use of general practitioners is a major obstacle to the necessary rapid vaccination and a return to a more normal life.
What do you personally think about getting vaccinated from AstraZeneka and Johnson & Johnson? Shouldn’t people be afraid of them?
As experts point out, the effectiveness of the vaccine cannot be expected to be 100%. For example, influenza vaccines have a range of 45-73 percent effectiveness. Covid vaccines achieve 67 to 90 percent effectiveness, which is comparable to commonly used vaccines. Clinical scoring studies also confirmed 99-100 percent effectiveness before death. From SÚKL data as of 9 March, 1,506 post-vaccination reactions were reported to 914,000 doses administered. Thus the number and incidence of adverse reactions is 1.6 per thousand. Of these reactions, 56 percent reported generally expected adverse reactions, such as local redness, fever, or swelling. Most of the reactions can be considered as post-vaccination physiological reactions and are not of concern.
Deaths have also been reported on suspicion of being vaccinated, but the direct cause has not been confirmed in any of them. This group also includes patients who became ill and died from COVID-19 shortly after vaccination, when the first dose could not adequately protect them. The high effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines has been confirmed from controlled clinical studies in practice. Vaccines are still considered safe, and in my opinion, there is no need to worry about getting vaccinated. Personally, I am glad that I am now in the alleged age group and able to get vaccinated.
It seems that Czech citizens can forget the fifth Sputnik. Isn’t that a shame?
Sputnik V works on the same principle as AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines, which are already licensed in the European Union. Sputnik V has so far been registered in 60 countries around the world, but the World Health Organization and EMA have not given their consent due to an alleged lack of information.
From the start, KSČM indicated that the Czech Republic should not rely solely on what the European Union would negotiate and buy together. In our opinion, the initial distrust due to the Russian vaccine test and the European Medicines Agency’s refusal was not a reason not to negotiate vaccines with other countries either. Professional media, such as The Lancet, have repeatedly attributed a 91.6% effectiveness of this vaccine. The Ministry of Health can approve this vaccine based on SÚKL’s recommendation for emergency use only in the Czech Republic, such as Hungary, but it has not done so. Perhaps protecting the health and life of Czech citizens is not a full priority for this government. Now the whole thing is under immense “anti-Russian” political pressure that an objective evaluation of the Sputnik V vaccine as well as a Czech, Moravi and Celestial patient will definitely fall victim.
Do you think that people should be vaccinated with what is offered to them, or should they be able to choose the vaccine themselves?
If we had enough vaccinations of all kinds, it would definitely be desirable for people to be able to choose depending on their health and level of confidence. But the key word should be the attending physician. Additionally, the fact that these vaccines are not common commodities and are paid for with public funds also play a role.
Do you think that all those interested in vaccination against the Corona virus can be vaccinated by the end of August at the latest, as Prime Minister Andrei Babis said?
If there is a promised increase in the number of vaccines, it will be possible. It is important that GPs get more vaccination and also that people not lose interest in vaccination voluntarily or repeatedly. Only over 75 percent of immunization can gradually bring us back to normal life.
The government has begun to dismantle the measures. Gradually, children return to school, stores and services will open … Do you think this is appropriate?
We do not like the prudent, and therefore slow, process of disintegrating according to strict hygiene rules, but it is fundamentally a preventative method against the likelihood of returning more infected people and the subsequent repeated burden on the healthcare system. We urgently need to allow healthcare professionals some rest so that they can finally deliver the long-awaited “non-intravenous” care. Returning children to all kinds of schools has always been a priority for Sheikh Khalifa Medical School, and according to experts, teaching by rotation is better and less risky than distance learning. However, damage from a service outage of more than a year would be very difficult to repair, just as it is in healthcare.
There are several bills in the House of Representatives that can be discussed at the end of the election period. The amendment, which relates to medicinal cannabis, will vote, for example, on the pirate proposal so that adults can grow up to three cannabis plants and process them for their own use. What do you think that?
Time and time again the hackers try to fulfill their previously stated intention to legalize marijuana, or at least open the door further. At the end of January, the House of Representatives rejected a similar but broader proposal by hackers on first reading. I find similar hacker ideas dangerous. The way medicinal cannabis is used today to relieve pain and other disease symptoms is sufficient, in my opinion. Personally, I have a problem with the entire amendment, because it aims to empower private entities that obtain a license to grow the cannabis plant, produce a medicinal substance and distribute it abroad. This is expected to increase competition and have a positive effect on the prices of cannabis-containing drugs. However, I am not convinced that there is adequate assurance that there is no abuse and illicit trade in addictive substances. In addition, the newly proposed system by the government conflicts with Article 23 of the Single Substance Treatment Convention. Therefore, I do not support the bill and its amendments.
Former Health Minister Adam Voich (YES) is again proposing that prescription medications can be ordered in the mail. What do you think of this change?
Here the situation is a bit more complicated. I agree that the role of the pharmacist is very important and indispensable when dispensing the prescribed medications. On the other hand, I see a big problem with the fact that there are too many pharmacies in the Czech Republic, but they are unevenly distributed. Plus, they have short opening hours, don’t maintain emergency rooms at all and don’t have much storage space. This in fact forces patients to go to pharmacies again and again to get the necessary drugs prescribed to them. This puts the most pressure on the elderly and has the least mobility. It should also be noted that there is already an electronic prescription with a drug registry that simplifies the whole process. So it is still necessary to discuss this issue.
Several amendments are also being submitted to amend the health insurance law. For example, the range of children receiving free meningococcal vaccination should be expanded, another proposal would allow payments for other HPV vaccines, groups of people who got paid influenza vaccination, etc. could also be modified. How do these vaccines respond to changes?
I fully support all the modifications that will give people a better possibility to get vaccinated. Especially with HPV, as it is the only vaccine that prevents cancer. Specifically against cervical cancer. The Health Committee also made a proposal, under threat of a penalty, to prohibit paying for something that the law would not allow. For example, today various registration fees are often required from a gynecologist, etc. The ensuing discussion sparked very angry reactions such as: “We will not be bringing any extreme left elements here.” But personally, I will support this proposal.
The amendment also brings very important changes in the field of patient organization and improvement of patients’ access to medical products and medical devices. In general, the law is urgently needed and should be supported by MPs on behalf of the KSČM.
Rating: 4, total 1 vote.