20 Surgeons from Sofia Emergency Hospital Have Coronavirus

Dozens of medics in the “Pirogov” emergency hospital in the Bulgarian capital Sofia have tested positive for coronavirus. At least twenty of them are surgeons, Bivol learned from hospital sources. Most of the infected work in the General, Visceral and Emergency Surgery Clinic. Another problem hospital in Sofia is “St. Anna”, where everyone working in the infectious ward has tested positive for antibodies, but their PCR tests are negative.

Battle to be tested

“They don’t allow us to be tested. You have to fight to obtain a test. They don’t allow it. Testing takes place in the yard. They hide staff test results. Testing is not available to staff. They hide the results and do not tell us who is sick and who is healthy. They tell us to just go home”, a hospital source who requested anonymity told Bivol.

Why are so many surgeons infected? The reason for such a large number of infections is the mixing of patient flows, according to one of the experts Bivol consulted.

Sick and healthy and staff enter through the same entrance. They use the same X-ray for sick people with Covid-19 and for other emergencies.

The lack of protective gear seems to be another reason as it has only been delivered in recent days. Otherwise, medics could buy emergency medical masks at the hospital’s movie library:

“The surgeons went to various clinics without any protective materials. We were not given hats, gloves, and masks. Everything was going to the Covid-19 department. Until two weeks ago, we had no masks. There was even an office in the movie library selling masks for whoever wants to buy a mask for BGN 4”, eyewitnesses say.

General Mutafchiyski: “Many fell victim there”

The Head of Bulgaria’s Coronavirus Taskforce General Mutafchiyski also confirmed the information about a large number of surgeons with Covid-19 in a phone call with a reporter of Bivol. According to the General, there are about 40 infected medics in “Pirogov”, including doctors, medical interns, nurses and paramedics.

“They are more than twenty. Twenty in the surgery unit alone. I think they are thirty, maybe they are forty already. I do not have the exact numbers in front of me. Many fell victim there”, Mutafchiyski said.

“There are people in “Pirogov” who have not worked with Covid-19 patients and probably someone with coronavirus has infected them. By comparison, the Medical Military Academy (MMA) has only three or four medics infected with coronavirus”, he pointed out.

According to Mutafchiyski, the large number of surgeons with COVID-19 in “Pirogov” is not news and the number of infected was already known.

Bivol was unable to find the taskforce’s briefing that specifically disclosed data on the 20 coronavirus infected surgeons.

In an interview with Darik Radio on May 2, 2020, “Pirogov’s” Director, Professor Assen Baltov, announced that 48 people in total had been infected, but did not specify that there had been about twenty surgeons among them. All infected are under home quarantine.

Having 20 surgeons on leave has not put this major surgical emergency clinic on its knees so far, but it would be a big problem if the infection affects pediatric surgery, where specialized surgeons are much scarcer.

Another credible source told Bivol that the entire staff from the infectious decease unit at “St. Anna” hospital in Sofia, or 27 medics, have tested positive for coronavirus with serological (rapid) tests. However, their PCR samples are negative. So far, there are no sick or quarantined medics in “St. Anna”. The medics there remain at work.

The problem with infected medics is systemic

The problem with testing of medics and protective gear has persisted since the start of the coronavirus crisis. According to Bivol, soviet-era chemical protection gear had been initially distributed to hospitals in northwestern Bulgaria. The Civic Association BOETS (Fighter) then warned that the National Reference Laboratory had refused to test medics from the hospital in the Danube city of Vidin and had returned their samples, subsequently turning the hospital into a major coronavirus outbreak. As a “reward”, the prosecutor’s office charged the Chairman of the BOETS, Georgi Georgiev, with disclosing fake and alarming data, despite the confirmed facts.

In the southern city of Sliven, the well-known local doctor and municipal councilor Dr. Dimitar Pavlov directly accused the National Taskforce of lying about local medics having been provided with adequate protective equipment. This is what he wrote on social networks:

“At the morning briefing, Dr. Kunchev told a lie or if he did not lie, then he is not aware of things. He said that all hospitals have high-end masks. No such thing! Neither the hospital nor the healthcare center where I work have them. The number of infected healthcare workers will increase. Because of his ignorance! And he is the Chief Sanitary Inspector… The task force is lying and the result is 34 infected medics in one day and over 100 so far. At this rate, soon there may be a shortage of staff”, said Dr. Pavlov.

“The other lie they told was that all contacts had been tested for coronavirus. On April 18, my ward was quarantined for two weeks. These are about 25 people. So far, no one has tested us, and each of us has a family”, he added.

His words were tragically confirmed by the subsequent death of Dr. Iliana Ivanova from the infectious ward of the hospital in Sliven. The National Taskforce and the authorities left without comment the alarming claims of the respected Sliven doctor.

Headline photo: Prof. Dr. Assen Baltov conducts surgery with his favorite skull hat. Source: America for Bulgaria Foundation website

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