Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Foreign Ministry Condemns Indictment against Croat in Donetsk

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - Croatia strongly condemns an indictment against Croatian national Vjekoslav Prebeg, who has been detained in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MVEP) said on Wednesday.

Croatia "rejects the indictment and does not consider it to be legally sound because it is contrary to international law and conventions on the treatment of captured civilians and prisoners of war," the MVEP said in a press release.

The Ministry and competent services are in constant contact with the Ukrainian authorities and other partners in order to shed light on the case and have Prebeg released, the ministry said, adding that it has been in touch with the detainee's family.

According to Croatian media, Prebeg was arrested in May near Mariupol. He is accused of terrorist training, participation in the conflict as a mercenary, coup and subversion of the constitution.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Health Minister Claims there are Sufficient Quantities of COVID-19 Drug

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - Health Minister Vili Beroš on Wednesday denied the claim by the Croatian Association of Hospital Doctors (HUBOL) that Croatian hospitals are running out of a drug used to treat COVID-19 patients, saying that hospitals have sufficient quantities of Remdesivir.

The claims by some health workers and medical associations about the shortage of Remdesivir in Croatian hospitals are not true, the health minister said in a statement.

HUBOL said on Wednesday that Croatian hospitals currently have only 483 doses of Remdesivir at their disposal, which is enough to treat only 80 COVID-19 patients, while 613 are being treated in hospitals.

Beroš said that Remdesivir is not applied to all hospitalised COVID-19 patients and that the present supplies are sufficient to meet the hospitals' needs.

Currently, 613 people are being treated for COVID-19 in 37 hospitals in Croatia, but only 39 of them are in intensive care units.

Beroš noted that Remdesivir, as well as other drugs used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, is not intended for wide use, but is used only for a targeted group of hospitalised patients in line with special criteria. He added that the hospitals that lack Remdesivir can meet their needs by ordering it from the hospitals that have it in sufficient quantities, as has been the case during the pandemic.

The Health Ministry said it has launched the procedure to order more quantities of Remdesivir for Croatian hospitals via the integrated EU procurement system.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Petrinja Bridge Renamed in Honour of Volunteers who Helped 2020 Earthquake Victims

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - A plaque was unveiled on a bridge in Petrinja on Wednesday naming it the Volunteers' Bridge in honour of the people who came to Petrinja in 2020 to help local residents deal with the aftermath of a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit the city on 29 December 2020.

The new name of the bridge over the River Petrinjčica was proposed by the Petrinja Spring civic group who in that way wanted to express their gratitude to all volunteers from Croatia and abroad who came to Petrinja immediately after the earthquake.

The head of the local fire brigade, Zvonimir Ljubičić, said that the bridge's new name was a token of gratitude to members of sport fans' groups, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS), Red Cross, firefighters and numerous individuals who spontaneously joined in efforts to help the earthquake victims.

"I think that people from all over the country came here. We cannot forget their help. They did not only repair damaged properties... they helped us heal our mental wounds, they cried with us. We had to tell them 'Thank you'," said Drinka Mažić of the Petrinja Spring.

The new name of the bridge was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the town's patron saint, St. Lawrence.

Seven people were killed and extensive material damage was caused in the areas of Petrinja, Sisak and Glina by the 29 December 2020 earthquake.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Sinj Time Machine: Let's Go Back to 1715 When it All Began!

August 10, 2022 - The Sinj Tourist Board is bringing it back to when it all began. Jump in the Sinj time machine and enjoy the annual reenactment of the Battle of Sinj 1715!

Organized by the Sinj Tourist Board, a reenactment of the famous and artistically immortalized Battle of Sinj 1715 will take place, along with the events that preceded it, on August 11 (Thursday) at 20:30 at Trg Kralja Tomislava (Market). The event will celebrate its 16th edition this year. 

The historical spectacle takes place in two acts. The first act is staged at Pijaca, Sinj's main square, when the Ottomans dramatically and violently attacked and conquered the town of Sinj, burned the church, and took the people into slavery. Incredibly realistic light and sound effects contribute to the authenticity of the scenes. The second act takes place in the original setting of Alkarski dvori, the former Apartments. Despite the almost hopeless situation, the Defense Council does not think twice and defends its city against a more numerous, superior, and powerful enemy. According to tradition, it was with Our Lady's help that the Ottomans were defeated, and Sinj was freed from the threat of the enemy to keep Christianity. Led by Fr. Pavlo Vučković (embodied by the high school professor, scientist, writer, editor, and publisher Fr. Gabrijel Hrvatin Jurišić), the joyful and grateful faithful have celebrated their patron saint ever since with even greater fervor.

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Ivana Pavicic

The Sinj time machine - let's go back together to 1715 when it all began!

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Nikola Belančić

The director of the dramatic spectacle is Velimir Borković. The performance was brought to life in cooperation with the Shrine of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj and the Alka Knights Society. Numerous actors from amateur theaters participate in the event, and the leading roles include: Gabrijel Jurišić, Marko Duvnjak, Bruno Barać, Marijan Grbavac, Damir Žane Alebić, Saša Miletić, Bobo Delonga, Dijana Ivić Kundid, Bože Pavić, Vedrana Vrgoč, Sanja Gojun, Mirjana Živalj, Anđelka Vučković, Marko Jelinčić, Anđelka Vučković, Dino Vuković, Dubravka Vuković, Marija Mandac, Dušan Roguljić, Tihana Jelić, members of KU Marko Marulić, GZ Brodosplit, the historical units of the Klis Uskoks, the Patriot Defense Association, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, the "Gromovi Zagorje" mountain rescuers, the Association for the Preservation of the Heritage of the Cetinje Region, the Association of Rera and Guslar from Otok, the Sinjski Ferals, the horsemen of the Alka Knights Society, the Alka horses; Marko Vuković and Andrija Ribičić ride the carriages, Vesna Bader and Branka Marinović take care of the scenography, and Miki Nopling, who this year is preparing a particularly impressive staging, is responsible for the sound backdrop and special effects.

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Željko Zrnčić

The director is the prominent theater, television, and film actor Robert Kurbaša, the assistant director is Bruno Barać, and the playwright and producer is Luka Perković. And this year, with the performance of the cantata of Our Lady of Sinj, the City Choir of Brodosplit is also in attendance, performing under the direction of maestro Vlada Sunko, a famous music pedagogue, conductor, and composer.

The Battle of Sinj 1715 is a unique stage spectacle under Sinj's August Nights, and the whole town becomes a stage that, with its originality, instantly transports the audience 307 years into the past! The performance is held with the support of the City of Sinj and the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board. 

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For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

12th Sinj Village Fair Successfully Held Over Alka Weekend (PHOTOS)

August 10, 2022 - The 12th Sinj Village Fair was successfully held over Alka weekend and organized by the Sinj Tourist Board. 

The 12th Sinj Village Fair was successfully held on Dr. Franje Tuđman Square from August 5 to 6, organized by the Sinj Tourist Board, with the support of the City of Sinj and the Cetinje Region LAG - through the 'Dinara back to life' project (LIFE18NAT/HR/000847).

It was attended by more than 25 exhibitors from the Cetina region, Kaštela, Marina, Split, Vrgorac, and Zagorje, who presented their products, from ornaments and handicrafts to gourmet delicacies and products from the village and islands. Old local crafts were also offered, such as the production of folk costumes, opanaks, bakeware, copper, garden tools and other traditional wooden handicrafts and collectibles.

The fair was opened by Miro Bulj, the mayor of Sinj, and all the visitors and participants were blessed by Fr. Marinko Vukman, guardian and director of the Church of Our Lady of Sinj.

In the entertainment part of the program, the Sinj majorettes enhanced the atmosphere as they do with every event. Visitors followed the performances of the faithful guardians of local traditions and customs through the songs and dances of Dalmatian Zagora, which are on the list of the intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Croatia. This included the Association for Preserving Cetina Region Heritage, KUD Vrilo - Obrovac Sinjski, URIG from Otok, KUD Krenica - Gala, KUD Cetina, KUD Glavice, and KUD Dicmo, who performed the traditional rera, the Sinj kola and the final Vrli kola from the opera 'Ero s onoga svijeta'.

Then, Goran Mikas, who presented the chants and musical instruments of Poljica, and the visiting cultural and artistic societies, such as the singing group "Krčevljani" Vitez (BiH), HKUD Sv. Ante Humac - Ljubuški (BiH), KUD "Ilinden" from Demir Hisar (North Macedonia), who introduced us to the traditions and customs of their region. On the final night of the fair, Ljuta kuća performed to raise the atmosphere.

Visitors also took part in engaging educational workshops. Thus, they had the opportunity to get acquainted with the traditional pottery from Potravlje through the production of clay dishes under the skillful hands of master Ivan Knezović. This traditional craft was nominated for UNESCO protection by the Ministry of Culture. The Tourist Board, under the auspices of the Ministry, organizes well-attended educational workshops every year. Visitors could learn about the forgotten skill of making opanak shoes, the only footwear known to Sinj's ancestors and which served them faithfully and for a long time in all activities, as well as the art of weaving baskets at Ljilje Vojković's workshop. 

Art & wine by Ana Poljak presented excellent works of art and wine from OPG Mažurin, along with a wool spinning workshop presented by Jasna and Domina Bilač, members of the Lipota Association. The fair also featured an exhibition of student works from the Split School of Crafts on "Women in Alka" and participants of last year's Sinj photo workshop "The World in Colors."

All visitors to the fair could take part in all the workshops for free and taste local gastronomic delicacies: Sinj uštipak prepared by the members of the Old Crafts Association as well as Sinj gingerbread prepared by Ankica Župić according to the original Sinj recipe.

The 12th Sinj village fair was led by prof. Branimir Romac.

"We would like to thank everyone who helped us bring this fair to life, especially: the City of Sinj and the LAG of Cetinje krajina - Dinara back to life (LIFE18NAT/HR/000847), the Alka Knights Society, the Shrine of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, the employees of Cistoca in the Cetinje region, KUS-Sinj, Sinj majorettes, Srma association, exhibitors, Cultural and artistic societies, Kamičak d.d., Sinj bobi, MUP PP Sinj, HEP – Sinj, Elektro Bekan, Branki Marinović, and Maja Kovačević.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Number of Serbian Tourists in Croatia Highest Ever

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - The number of Serbian nationals vacationing in Croatia is 60% higher than in the same period of 2021 and 20% higher than in the record year 2019, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

Croatia-Serbia tourism relations could be said to have normalised in recent years, but things get stirred up slightly every year in August, when Croatia commemorates the 1995 military operation "Storm", on which the two countries have diametrically opposed positions, and when embittered comments are made.

Operation Storm was a Croatian joint military and police operation that ended a Serb armed rebellion on 5 August 1995, and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country. It also resulted in a mass exodus of Croatian Serbs.

This year, a resentful comment was made by the mayor of Novi Sad, Miloš Vučević, who said that he did not want to condemn anyone but that he would never be able to understand Serbs vacationing in Croatia on 5 August.

This year, on that day, around 13,500 Serbian nationals were vacationing in Croatia, and none of them reported having any problems over their nationality, just like 127,000 Serbian nationals who have visited Croatia since the start of 2022.

The number of Serbian nationals vacationing in Croatia is 60% higher than in the same period of 2021 and as much as 20% higher than in 2019, the year with record-high tourism results.

The good results are also owing to activities by the Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ) and local HTZ offices. Even though Serbia is not a priority market for Croatia, a study tour was organised for a crew of the Serbian public broadcaster RTS's SAT programme, which has an audience of close to one million.

"Guests from Serbia and not different from visitors from other European countries. They change destinations, explore and visit depending on their interests and budget, and their hosts in Croatia treat them the same way they treat other guests. Our tourism workers do not care about politics or their guests' nationality, and the issue of the safety of Serbian visitors stopped being a topic some seven-eight years ago. I'm not saying that some of the Serbian guests have not experienced an unpleasant situation, a car break-in or something like that, but the same thing happens to German or Italian visitors," says Boris Žgomba, head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) association of travel agencies and director of the Uniline tourism company, which has an office also in Serbia.

This year his agency has seen a year-on-year increase in interest in the Serbian market in vacations in Croatia, and over the past few years, Serbian visitors' interest in Croatia has spread from destinations in the regions of Istria and Kvarner to Dalmatia, says the daily.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Croatia Logs 1,872 New COVID-19 Cases, 12 Related Deaths

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - Croatia has registered 1,872 new COVID cases and 12 related deaths in the past 24 hours, the national COVID response team reported on Wednesday.

Currently, there are 7,710 active cases in the country, including 607 hospitalised patients, 22 of whom are on ventilators, while 3,591 people are self-isolating.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 1,196,221 COVID cases have been recorded in Croatia; 16,446 patients have died as a consequence and 1,172,065 have recovered, including 344 in the past 24 hours. 

To date, 59.58% of the total population, or 70.85% of adults, have been vaccinated.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Is the Aleppo Pine to Blame for So Many Fires in Croatia?

August 10, 2022 - Almost every year we ask ourselves and the experts how come the number of wildfires in Croatia is increasing; is it just global warming or could the Aleppo pine be partially to blame?

The Croatian radiotelevision brings an interesting story, covered by many other media in Croatia, on what might be the causes for the increased number and size of the fires each summer. Their story starts by telling what happened to Dražen Ševerdija, one land owner in the Vodice hinterland, who lost more than 1,300 vines in one location alone, plus numerous figs and olive trees in the fire that recently savaged his estate. The firefighters defended the houses, and the ones they weren't able to save were near the areas where the Aleppo pine fires broke out. It was impossible to save those.

A retired agronomist Davorin Pamić has been warning about the dangers of the Aleppo pines in Dalmatia for years. He is certain that the cause of the increasingly frequent fires in Dalmatia is the Aleppo pine. It was even planted by foresters under the motto that it, its roots, will keep the land and erosion will not occur. However, they seem to have overlooked some of its other negative aspects, which is that it is very easily flammable. It's full of resin. And its cone, when it catches fire, can fly 50-60 meters like a bullet, and catch fire there, he says.

The flaming cone is what caused a fire in Milivoje Ševerdija's barn when it flew in. The hay was set on fire and part of the herd was killed. The people still living off the farms in Dalmatia are also struggling to get any type of compensation for the damages done by the wildfires, as the bureaucracy is horrible and the compensations themselves end up being symbolic. All of that leads to fewer people continuing to work on the land after every fire. 

Pamić brings some numbers to the table: In 1960, Dalmatia had a million sheep. And then when a fire broke out, 2.7 hectares would burn. In 1998, Dalmatia had only 200,000 sheep, but then 47 hectares burned in one fire. This means that we have five times less livestock, and 20 times more land is burning (note by the author: the numbers are certainly even worse 25 years later). And it will continue to be like that because there is no real prevention: no grazing, no people to look after the neglected surfaces. 

The head Croatian fire chief said that, like Italy, we will have to introduce a tax on uncultivated land. And that's fine. However, he does not know that 80 percent of the agricultural area in Dalmatia has an extremely unorganized ownership situation, such as it was when Austria-Hungary dissolved. Pamić says that his olive grove was last registered in the books in 1910, 1/22 of it, more than 100 years ago. Who will now, in 2022, get the tax slip or be held accountable?

The same questions have been asked for decades. The same answers always seem to appear, without application in practice. The only thing that changes is the weather - and for the worse, extreme droughts, extreme fires... the future will certainly bring more of them. Will we continue to welcome them unprepared?

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

These were the Key Mistakes in Treatment of Vladimir Matijanić

August 10, 2022 – On August 5, Index’s journalist Vladimir Matijanić, aged fifty-one, tragically passed away due to the negligence of the Croatian health system. With several autoimmune diseases, he tested positive for covid-19 on August 2. Both he and his girlfriend spent days trying to convince the hospital staff to take them seriously. The emergency services only ever looked at him once, refusing to take him into the hospital even when he was extremely ill. Matijanić's colleagues at Index recounted the key mistakes of the system.

For context, TCN first reported the news here, followed by the reaction of the Croatian Health Ministry who ordered an inspection into the medical assistance to the reporter. Understandably, the way the hospital staff treated the dying journalist did not go down well in Croatia, causing public outrage.

At Index, his premature death prompted many of his colleagues to examine the extent to which the poor reaction of the Croatian healthcare system was responsible for this tragic outcome.

It is simply unacceptable that Matijanić, a man with so many serious underlying diseases, which brought him at particular risk for a severe form of covid-19, despite persistent inquiries and even a trip to the hospital, did not manage, over several days, to receive thorough and adequate examination and/or hospitalisation and to receive medicine intended for the prevention of severe forms of disease meant precisely for people of his health profile, which Minister Vili Beroš stated that “we have verified it exists” in stocks in the health system.

We called ten times and begged them to admit Vlado to the hospital. They refused

Questions arise as to how much and in what ways the health care system is responsible for Matijanić's death. In cooperation with several medical experts, Index took to list the key mistakes in order.

Firstly, the main culprit for Matijanić's death, just like for the death of many other patients with covid-19 and other diseases, was a poorly managed health care system, where a part of the doctors and medical staff are its victims, along with regular citizens who need help.

The system did not properly advise Matijanić about vaccination

Matijanić claimed that doctors advised him not to get vaccinated because he had several autoimmune diseases, primarily Sjogren's syndrome and suspected sarcoidosis, as well as dermatopolymyositis, hypergammaglobulinemia and airway abnormalities, including interstitial lung disease, a condition for which sarcoidosis and Sjogren's disease are among the most common causes.

The advice is contrary to scientific conclusions, as studies have shown that people with autoimmune diseases tolerate vaccines well. For example, the Sjogren's Syndrome News page cites the recommendations of the American agency for disease control and prevention, the CDC, according to which most patients with this diagnosis are recommended not only to get vaccinated but also to get booster vaccines.

At the same time, studies have shown that people with autoimmune diseases are a risk group for several reasons, among others because they can get infected more easily, they often have lung diseases, they usually take immunosuppressive drugs, and their reaction to covid-19 can be exaggerated and misdirected, commonly referred to as a cytokine storm.

The fact is that the vaccine against covid-19 in patients with autoimmune diseases, especially in people with dermatopolymyositis, could cause more pronounced side effects, but according to the conducted studies, the risk of side effects is still much lower than from not vaccinating. The doctors who knew about his underlying diseases should have monitored his condition and, in accordance with the development of knowledge and recommendations, should have updated him with them and recommended vaccination with additional monitoring measures. People with such underlying illnesses require more than "routine procedures".

The fact that there are few of them in the population emphasizes, even more, the need for more detailed and expert care. Finally, even if someone in the system had recognised that his condition was such that vaccination was not recommended for him, they should have officially and in writing informed Matijanić about this and then followed it with special attention and updated the recommendations in accordance with the new findings and changes in Matijanić's condition.

On the contrary, it turned out that Matijanić, who went to nursing vocational school and was not an anti-vaxxer, was simply not adequately "guided" by the system in this regard.

Matijanić should have been kept in the hospital with his diagnoses

Matijanić's partner Andrea Topić says that she took him to the Emergency Infectious Disease Department on August 2 thinking that he would be kept there. It is questionable why they didn't do that when they knew about all the diseases he had, but they just let him go home. Topić believes that it is possible that Matijanić's covid-19 developed even before August 2 as his home antigen test already showed he was positive that morning, and a few days earlier he complained to the immunologist about weakness and malaise.

A person with Matijanić's diagnoses should have been admitted to the hospital if he was confirmed to have covid-19 and if he had symptoms such as elevated temperature, weakness, malaise, wheezing, and cough. On the contrary, in patients suffering from interstitial lung disease, these symptoms – no matter what caused them directly (e.g., a common cold) - are a sign that an acute deterioration (exacerbation) has occurred, and this is always an indication for detailed hospital treatment and, typically, hospitalisation.

The fact that he did not feel any better even when his temperature dropped can only be an argument in favour of the fact that something was not right.

The doctor should have taken his case much more seriously

As was reported by Index, recordings of Matijanić's calls to medical professionals show that none of them took his situation seriously enough.

Among other things, the KBC doctor on duty should have reacted urgently when Matijanić told him that he had not been vaccinated and that he had autoimmune diseases. First, he should have asked in more detail about his autoimmune diseases, because patients suffering from them belong to the risk group when it comes to covid-19. The insistence that “Matijanić was not immunocompromised” because he had only started corticosteroid therapy a day before is a result of confusing the terms “immunocompromised” and “immunosuppressed”.

The doctor who knew Matijanić's condition: He was highly immunocompromised

Matijanić’s immune system was certainly long-term compromised in the sense that it reacted unusually, attacking its own tissue, which is a consequence of autoimmune diseases. Therefore, the doctor on duty should have recommended that he come to the hospital so that his condition could be assessed and monitored. Even though Matijanić stated that he was coughing and had a lot of phlegm, the doctor said that it probably would not be serious since it was omicron, regardless of all Matijanić’s conditions, and without having asked about them in more detail. Indeed, omicron causes severe disease in fewer people in the population than some previous variants of the virus. However, due to his characteristics, Matijanić did not fit into the “general population”, but into a specific group of people in whom even a common cold is a potential trigger for life-threatening conditions (e.g., exacerbation of interstitial lung disease).

There is no doubt that in each of his contacts with the health care system, Matijanić had to be admitted or referred for a detailed diagnostic evaluation and appropriate treatment, ideally at the very beginning, but also in every further stage of the disease.

To date, it has been proven certain: 1) that drugs with an antiviral effect intended to prevent the development of a severe form of the disease and intended specifically for people like Matijanić are effective; 2) that anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids and some others are reasonably effective in those with advanced disease; 3) that supportive treatment - oxygen therapy (including the most dramatic forms such as mechanical ventilation or ECMO device), anticoagulants and possibly antibiotics where there is a basis for this due to bacterial superinfection, are effective and extremely important and that they help reduce mortality.

Overall, if Matijanić had been referred to the hospital at any stage of his condition and treated as recommended by the guidelines, it can be said with high certainty that he would have survived this covid-19 episode.

Problematic administration of corticosteroids

Due to an autoimmune disease, Matijanić took the corticosteroid Decortin, but only for a brief time. The doctor on duty at KBC Split, whom he called, knew about it but did not react, only stating that he could not be immunocompromised since he had been taking it for such a brief time. As already stated, this was wrong – though Matijanić may not have been immunosuppressed since he did not take therapy that reduces the immune response in people with autoimmune diseases, he was immunocompromised due to his underlying diseases.

When the ambulance finally came for the first time, Matijanić's partner Andrea Topić asked the team if it could be Decortin that made him sick, and the answer was no. Moreover, they also gave him an injection with a strong dose of Solumedrol, which is also a corticosteroid.

What is controversial about that? As previously reported by Index, corticosteroids are used in the treatment of covid-19, but mostly only in an advanced stage, around the 7th day of severe disease, to reduce the excessive reaction of the immune system, the so-called cytokine storm. Since they are immunosuppressants, they reduce the body's reaction to viruses, so if they are given too early, they can increase the multiplication of the virus. Due to the above, they should only be given to patients with covid-19 in a hospital, under constant medical supervision and with oxygen, and not at home.

In other words, the emergency doctor should have taken Matijanić to the hospital after the first visit if she believed that his disease had progressed so much that he needed corticosteroids. Also, she should have been aware of how serious the situation was because, unlike the doctor on duty from KBC, who did not get enough information, she had access to Matijanić's discharge letter.

At the Emergency Infectious Diseases Department, they did not even ask about underlying diseases

When on August 5 Matijanić called the emergency department at the Infectious Diseases Department, the employee on duty did not even ask him about possible underlying diseases, even though he complained of feeling extreme weakness and severe pain in his muscles and joints. The doctor simply recommended ibuprofen for pain.

They did not call him into the hospital even when it was apparent that he was very sick

Furthermore, when on August 5 Matijanić called a medical worker at the emergency department of Infectious Diseases, after his condition significantly worsened, on the recording of the conversation it can be heard that his breathing was laboured. He also pointed out that he had Sjogren's syndrome and the resulting interstitial lung disease, and that he was so weak that he could not even get up to go to the bathroom.

But that medical worker did not take him seriously enough either, and to all this, she advised him to urinate in a bed pan that one of the household members could empty.

His diagnoses and the fact that his breathing was laboured, that he was so weak that he could not get out of bed should have been sufficient reasons for the employee on duty to seriously advise him to go to the hospital in an emergency or to insist that the ambulance take him as soon as possible.

The emergency left him at home despite the diagnoses

When the ambulance finally arrived, the doctor refused to take Matijanić to the hospital even though he had serious autoimmune diseases in addition to covid-19, which she had to see based on the discharge letter.

There are certain doubts about whether the doctor who came with the ambulance was qualified for the job. It's possible she was hired even though she wasn't qualified because the hospital was understaffed, which is a chronic problem within our healthcare system.

If she was qualified, she should have known that his case needed to be referred to the hospital despite his blood oxygen saturation of 97% (a result that can change dramatically in less than an hour, as it did in the end), low blood pressure, an increased heart rate did not have to look critical. The usual practice of the ambulance is to take a patient with serious underlying diseases in combination with covid-19 and numerous complaints to the hospital to examine his condition in more detail because even minor deviations of key parameters can result in complications.

It was expected that during the summer, during the national holiday, at the height of the heat wave, the healthcare system in touristic Split was overloaded, but this cannot be an excuse for not admitting seriously ill people like Matijanić to the hospital.

In Croatia, there is a lack of necessary medicines for the seriously ill

Finally, as already reported by Index, Matijanić was told on August 2 that there are no drugs to treat the seriously ill, including Remdesivir.

Minister Vili Beroš denied this claim, with the explanation that there is enough Remdesivir or its version Veklury, and that directors must procure them from other hospitals if they lack them, and for specialist doctors to prescribe it to patients. If it is true that Remdesivir was still available on August 2 when Matijanić should have started it, it is still unclear how he never received it.  

Why didn't Matijanić get the medicine? Beroš: There is enough covid medicine in hospitals

But in this context, the Ministry's answer to the question of why there is no Paxlovid, which was approved by the American FDA at the end of 2021, and by the European EMA in January 2022, is also interesting. It is a medicine that, among others, was recently taken by US President Joe Biden and German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach.

Since it showed excellent results in reducing hospitalisation and mortality by as much as 89%, it may have been able to save Matijanić's life, as well as that of many other patients who have died in recent days.

Many countries procured Paxlovid outside of centralised procurement

Index asked if there was a shortage of medicines in Croatia and received the interpretation from the Ministry that “the procurement of antiviral medicines Remdesivir and Paxlovid through the EC is currently being centralised” and that the department has done everything in this regard on time. However, it is known that the procurement of medicines does not necessarily have to go through the EC. States can procure medicine approved by the European agency EMA by themselves through direct contracts with manufacturers (by the way, Paxlovid was recommended as a medicine for covid-19 in the Ministry's guidelines back in February).

For example, Index received information that, in addition to centralised procurement, Paxlovid has already been procured by Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain, and that Slovenia will receive it at the end of August. Similarly, Croatia could have also bought the drug directly from the manufacturer, at least in some quantity, to bridge the period until central procurement is done and saved several lives, Matijanić's included.

For more, follow TCN’s dedicated News section.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Social Democrats Call on PM to Dismiss Health Minister Beros

ZAGREB, 10 August, 2022 - The Social Democrats party sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday demanding he dismisses Health Minister Vili Beroš, whom they consider responsible for the shortage of an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19.

The Social Democrats sent the letter following the death of reporter Vladimir Matijanić, who died as a result of COVID-19.

"The reason for his dismissal is his undeniable responsibility for failing to act and his preventing Croatian citizens from using the newest generation antiviral drug, which has been proven to reduce hospitalisation and mortality in a large number of cases for immunocompromised patients," the party said.

The drug that helps COVID patients was approved by the European Medicines Agency in January and has been purchased by most EU member states.

"If such a drug exists, if it has been approved, if it has been clinically established that it successfully prevents the most severe forms of the disease, then we Croatian citizens have the right to that drug," they added.

They believe that this case shows why Croatia has one of the highest COVID mortality rates. This is not about the responsibility of hospital directors, Health Ministry officials or the Health Insurance Fund, but about the direct responsibility of Minister Beroš.

The Social Democrats noted that their demand is not politically motivated, but that they want to see a minimum standard of political accountability, "without which citizens' trust in the institutions and the state will weaken even more, with consequences that are extremely harmful in the long term for our whole society."

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