We are not a rich, well-organised country with a practise of planning, but our public healthcare sector reorganised itself quickly and successfully. However, the opportunity to maximise the resources of both the private and state sectors was not utilised.
The pandemic has taught humanity a lesson. It has shown that nobody is privileged and that we can only survive if we seek a solution jointly. We thought until recently that there is no health without a lot of money and a successful economy, but now we see that there is no economic progress and survival without healthy people, healthy nature and biological equilibrium.
It was a year ago that the novel coronavirus found us with over 111,000 employees in the public health sector and about 17,000 in the private sector (2018). This is better than the average in the region and worse than the average in the EU, especially in terms of the number of mid-level medical staff, where we have 628 per 100,000 inhabitants and the EU has 1,441.
Over 55% of our doctors are aged over 50. We have a shortage of specialists, especially anaesthesiologists, intensive care specialists and emergency medicine specialists, as well as a major shortage of nurses.
Our hospitals are mostly housed in old and unsuitable facilities, while many new ones have central heating and cooling systems that aren’t adequate for such an infectious virus.
Although the initial outbreak of the pandemic was a terrible blow to the healthcare system, which didn’t even have basic protective equipment for employees, and although individuals and the crisis staff didn’t handle themselves in the best way, with their contradictory statements, now, a year on, we can be satisfied with how we’ve done.
Although it is small in terms of capacity, in terms of efficiency private healthcare system can be an excellent complement to serbia’s state health system
We are not a rich, well-organised country with a practise of planning, but our public healthcare sector reorganised itself quickly and successfully.
Clinical Hospital Centres have been converted into COVID Hospitals, and two new large-capacity COVID Hospitals were constructed in just four months. Public hospitals, as the only places were COVID-positive patients could be treated, were excellently supplied with all relevant treatments for severe forms of COVID, which were provided according to world protocols. Serbia has procured vaccines from all manufacturers and citizens are able to choose, which is a privilege compared to the rest of the world.
In term of what could have been better, I would single out the PCR test, which the private sector was unable to conduct. This resulted in the disease spreading more, because contacts and asymptomatic patients were not tested, rather only those with a temperature exceeding 38°C.
This situation eased with the appearance of a reliable antigen test that could also be done privately. Secondly, the private sector wasn’t adequately included in handling the pandemic. Although it is small in terms of capacity, in terms of efficiency private healthcare system it can be an excellent complement to Serbia’s state health system. A small number of courageous, better-organised private institutions got to grips with the outpatient treatment of COVID-positive patients, and provided a great contribution to the sense of security and accessibility to patients. There was no legal regulating of hospital treatment in the private sector.
Thirdly, there was no reason for COVID-negative patients – at the expense of the Fund – not to undergo operations and diagnostic procedures in the private sector that could not be performed in clinical centres, because they were converted to COVID hospitals. Waiting lists were huge for hip an knee replacements, coronary angiography procedures, stent implantations, tumour surgeries, scanners and magnetic resonance imaging. If that had been permitted, many chronically ill and oncology patients would have received solutions.
The COVID pandemic is still continuing, many lives have been lost, the economy has ground to a halt. Nobody knows how long this will last. All that’s left for us to do is to learn quickly, research new medicines and vaccines, and strive to be faster and wiser than the virus. It is absolutely clear that we should maximally utilise the resources of both the private and public sectors. More than anything that’s come before, this novel coronavirus warns us that trust and cooperation among all intelligent and creative people is the only way for humanity to survive.