Health Authorities Distribute Soviet-era Protective Gear to Bulgarian Hospitals

The Regional Health Inspectorates (RHI) have distributed protection gear against chemical weapons, manufactured in 1986, to health establishments in Bulgaria. Bivol learned about the obsolete equipment from posts of medics from the northwestern city of Vratsa on social networks but such gear has been delivered to other regions as well. Research by Bivol and Vratsa-based news site Zov News found that it had come from the military reserve.

This is what they had and this is what they gave us

Bivol spoke to Dr. Keremedchiev, Director of “Hristo Botev” hospital in Vratsa, who confirmed that the RHI had delivered 100 pieces of the protective clothing at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

“That was a long time ago. Since then, I have gotten contemporary protective clothing. We have all the safeguards,” he said.

According to Keremedchiev, the protective gear, although obsolete, is of good quality. Vapor pressure tests conducted at the hospital have shown that the fabric has not lost its insulating properties.

“As soon as we received them, I ordered my people to conduct high-temperature and high-pressure tests. I have to tell you that they withstood three consecutive test cycles; there is nothing wrong with them. Since they have been made for the military at the time, they have been done properly. The fabric is of extremely high quality, durable. Very few things from this kind of fabric can withstand such tests,” Dr. Keremedchiev praised the gear.

The obvious problem is that the protective gear is not adapted for hospital handling; it can be rather used for vineyard spraying.

Not fashionable but it works; it comes from the military reserve

The Director of the RHI Vratsa, Kathy Tsenova, said that the protective gear came to her office from the RHI in the northwestern city of Pleven and according to her, its origin is from the military reserve. Her office has received 800 pieces of such protective clothing and has distributed it to medical establishments.

“Although it does not look good, the clothing is of very good quality,” said Kathy Tsenova. “The problem is that the gloves are three-fingered, but it does the job of protection and it is better to have some protective clothing than none. As far as I understand, it is all over Bulgaria,” she said.

Tsenova also confirmed that its year of manufacture was 1986 and stressed that it is disposable. She confirmed the words of Dr. Keremedchiev that it had been tested in a pressure autoclave and it worked pretty well.

“We have also distributed newer clothing, but in limited quantities,” Tsenova said. “We have a reserve of 200 pieces of disposable protective clothing that we will distribute when and if we are faced with a real problem.”

According to information obtained by Bivol and Zov News, the protective gear has been delivered about two weeks ago.

Showcase and reality

Even before the delivery of the “unfashionable clothing”, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov visited on March 17, 2020, a factory for protective clothing in Vratsa and praised the modern Bulgarian production of such products.

It became clear that the factory manufactures protective clothing with a breathable membrane withstanding a four-bar pressure. The workers impressed the Prime Minister when they told him that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had used similar equipment for his flight.

Borisov said that he had praised Bulgarian production before the European Council and announced that European leaders had asked him for possible supplies. Subsequently, he visited more protective clothing factories, giving more accolades to the Bulgarian industry, which is reconfiguring its facilities to make the scarce worldwide protective gear.

It is unclear how many protective suits have been delivered to hospitals around the country so far. According to the RHIs, hospitals need to buy them from their own budgets.

Neftochim production

The 34-year-old Chernobyl-era costumes have come from the former “Tsvyatko Radoynov” plastic factory in the southeastern town of Grudovo, now named Sredets, and are made of polyvinyl chloride. The factory was a subsidiary of the socialist State company Neftochim. In 1991, its ownership was separated into Plastics Products Ltd. The company has been bankrupt for a long time.

/Expect further details/

By Atanas Tchobanov and Dimitar Stoyanov (Bivol) and Maria Dimitrova (Zov News)

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