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The healthcare system in Bulgaria is functioning beyond breaking point

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Amid surging Covid-19 statistics, appeals for strict observance of the anti-coronavirus measures so as to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, a tragic occurrence in front of the university hospital in Bulgaria’s second biggest city, Plovdiv, lends a new perspective to all discussions of the healthcare system in this country.

Two patients with coronavirus died in front of the hospital after a long wait to be admitted to its intensive care unit. The prosecutor’s office is opening an ex officio investigation into the incident which clearly illustrates the condition the healthcare system in Bulgaria is in. This state of affairs goes back a long time, that the system is unreformed is something Health Minister Kostadin Angelov admitted, though he added that this was not the right time for radical reforms.

“This is not a normal situation and it won’t get any better for a long time to come because we are working beyond the breaking point of the healthcare system, commented Petar Galev, medical communications manager at CREDOweb, a platform for communication among doctors, in an interview for the BNR’s Horizont channel.

He pointed out that the tragic case in Plovdiv is an illustration of the state the healthcare system in Bulgaria is in, and added that such occurrences are likely to happen again and again in the coming months.

“What is happening is a manifestation of the shortage of medical specialists in Bulgaria – doctors, nurses, orderlies. We are justifiably angry and desperate, though we should have been concerned a long time before this pandemic set in. For years we have been saying there are no doctors and nurses in Bulgaria, but society has been doing nothing to change that. Because – take a look at the job offers at stores, at the salaries offered, and compare them to the starting salary of a doctor – 800 Leva (400 euro) per month. There is no way to keep doctors from emigrating.”

Hospitals have constantly been raising the alarm that they are in need of nurses, doctors and medical orderlies. And whereas orderlies can be trained over a relatively short period of time, that is not the case with doctors or nurses whose training takes years.

“It is quite another matter that medical training as such has very severe deficits,” Petar Galev says. “Nobody is teaching doctors empathy, compassion, medical education has become all about technology. The healthcare system too has become commercially and technologically oriented, many of the lecturers of the doctors-to-be do not give them enough attention because they are not motivated to teach them. They say that more students will be admitted to university to study medicine and nursing. But unless a mechanism is found so that lecturers will be fully committed to teaching, and not, as is now the case, teach as their third or fourth activity, nothing good awaits us.”

In Petar Galev’s words at the moment “the whole world is in a state of war in medicine, in the healthcare systems.” And such tragic incidents happen everywhere.

“We each have our own responsibility and whether the system will be overwhelmed and there will be more tragic occurrences depends on the way each one of us behaves – whether we wear a mask, whether we observe social distancing and sanitize our hands because when a system is overloaded it does not function normally.”

Interview by Lyudmila Zhelezova, Horizont channel

Edited by Elena Karkalanova

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