Health service prepares for second surge of COVID-19 cases

As coronavirus cases hit record numbers for a 24-hour period, the Kosovo health service is preparing for another surge in COVID-19 patients, with the Infectious Disease Clinic in Prishtina already nearing capacity.

This week has seen coronavirus cases rise dramatically, with 1,385 people confirmed as infected since Monday. The 418 cases announced by the National Institute of Public Health on Friday are the most ever recorded in Kosovo in a 24-hour period. 

Lindita Ajazaj-Berisha, the acting director of the Infectious Disease Clinic, told BIRN that Kosovo’s health service must be prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

“It is expected that the number of people that will require treatment will increase if we continue this huge increase of cases as we had these days, with over 280 cases,” Ajazaj-Berisha said. “We have to be prepared for that.”

The acting head of the Infectious Disease Clinic said that the number of patients seeking treatment at the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo, UCCK, has increased over the last week, as well as the number of hospitalised patients. 

Ajazaj-Berisha stated that in recent days between 90 and 100 patients have been hospitalised at the clinic, which has a capacity of 120 beds. She added that around 50 to 60 patients are receiving oxygen therapy, while two are using ventilators.  

Kosovo’s health service was stretched during the peak of COVID-19 cases this summer, with the number of patients far surpassing the 120 beds available at the Infectious Disease Clinic. 

At the end of July, 570 of the 700 hospital beds available in Kosovo were occupied, 354 of which with COVID-19 patients. The overflow of COVID-19 patients led to them being treated in other clinics at UCCK including the pulmonary and neurology wards, as well as Kosovo’s regional hospitals. Ajazaj-Berisha warned that this situation may be repeated if cases continue to rise.

BIRN has learnt that, as of Friday, 141 patients suspected to have COVID-19 are hospitalised in Kosovo’s regional hospitals.

The Regional Hospital of Prizren told BIRN that it is currently treating 54 patients suspected of suffering from COVID-19, with 31 confirmed cases and 23 awaiting test results. Of these, 34 are receiving oxygen therapy, six with a CPAP mask and one with a ventilator. 

In the west of Kosovo, the Regional Hospital of Gjakova told BIRN on Friday that 35 patients are currently hospitalised with COVID-19 there, while the neighbouring Peja regional hospital stated that it has 28 COVID-19 patients, with nine in a serious condition.

Meanwhile, the Regional Hospital of Gjilan has told BIRN that it has 24 patients suspected to have COVID-19 currently hospitalised, with three in intensive care. Regional hospitals in Vushtrri, Ferizaj and Mitrovice do not currently have any COVID-19 patients being treated.

Blerim Syla, the head of the Federation of Health Trade Unions, told BIRN that health staff were better prepared this time around and have gained experience of dealing with coronavirus throughout the year.

“What is encouraging is the better protective equipment we have,” Syla said. “We also now have more knowledge about the virus and that should reduce the number of healthcare staff that will become infected, but it will not protect us completely.”

According to Syla, 1,600 health workers have been infected with coronavirus since the crisis began in March, including 600 doctors. “Of course we expect that the situation will deteriorate, including with our staff,” he added.

30/10/2020 - 15:02

30 October 2020 - 15:02

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.