Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Nurses Association Calls for Stopping Outflow of Medical Staff

ZAGREB, February 4, 2020 - Several nurses' associations on Tuesday warned that over the past six years close to 2,500 nurses had applied for certificates for their qualifications so they can go and work abroad, calling on the competent institutions to curb the outflow of medical staff.

For more than five years the health administration has been ignoring the problems of the nursing profession and it has not done anything to improve the status of nurses, the associations said, calling on the government and the newly appointed health minister to urgently start dealing with the problems burdening the nursing profession.

They called for recognising nurses' university qualifications by amending the regulation on job titles and job complexity indices in public services as well as for more concrete measures to deal with the labour shortage.

They said that currently 41,332 nurses have licences, of whom 26% are nurses with a university or college degree while 4% also have a postgraduate degree.

Speaking of the problems burdening the nursing profession, the associations cited the lack of nurses, low wages, frequently inappropriate working conditions and an excessive workload.

They called for amending the Nurses Act, adopting a strategy for the development of the nursing profession for the period until 2030, aligning the classification of jobs in medical institutions with the existing regulations, and defining the right to an accelerated retirement plan for nurses.

More healthcare sector news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Zagreb Ambulance Service Staff to Go on Strike on Wednesday

ZAGREB, February 3, 2020 - Ambulance crews in the capital city of Zagreb will go on strike on Wednesday demanding a pay rise so that their monthly wages are equated with those of emergency medical services.

The ambulance service in the capital city has 42 crews with 120 drivers and paramedics, and as of Wednesday, only a dozen crews will be on duty and the ambulance service will continue working with that reduce number crews until their demands are met.

The trade union of ambulance staff said that the pay rise would require an additional two million kuna to be set aside annually for their monthly wages.

The unionists said that the pay gap between wages of emergency ambulance crews in the city and their counterparts in emergency medical services is 2,000 kuna (270 euro).

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 31 January 2020

No Cases of Coronavirus Infection in Croatia, 14 Cases Identified in EU

ZAGREB, January 31, 2020 - Considering the increased interest by the public and media the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) has said that currently there are no cases of infection with the novel coronavirus in Croatia and that 14 cases have been discovered in the European Union.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

Around the world 9,834 people have been diagnosed with the illness and 213 have died so far, HZJZ said on its web site.

The virus has been identified in Germany, France, Finland and Italy.

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met on Thursday and recommended that coronavirus be declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) to enable an internationally coordinated response to the epidemic in accordance with WHO recommendations and additional international mobilisation of finances and human resources.

The Committee still does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions based on the current information.

The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry is arranging transport to evacuate Croatian citizens currently located in Wuhan, China, HZJZ said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Croatians in Wuhan to Be Evacuated and Quarantined

ZAGREB, January 30, 2020 - The four Croatians who are staying in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus was first detected, will be evacuated soon, the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated in a press release on Thursday.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

The departure of the four Croatians from Wuhan is being organised by the Croatian foreign and health ministries in cooperation with European partners within the Council of European Union crisis response mechanism.

As soon as they arrive in Europe, the four Croatians will be quarantined, but the press release does not specify the location of their quarantine. It also does not give the exact date of the evacuation or how they will be transported from China to Europe.

So far, there have been 170 deaths related to this virus, and 7,700 people have been diagnosed with this communicable disease.

Apart from China, cases of coronavirus infection have been reported in Australia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, France, Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea, Singapore, the USA, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Japan.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Croatian Citizens in Wuhan Offered Evacuation

ZAGREB, January 29, 2020 - Croatian citizens wanting to leave the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, have been offered evacuation organised by partners from the European Union, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs stated on Tuesday.

The Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Beijing is in constant contact with local Chinese authorities and European partners, as well as with the four Croatian citizens who are in Wuhan, the ministry told HINA on Tuesday.

"Croatian citizens wanting to leave Wuhan have been offered evacuation in the organisation of EU partners, and we have stayed in contact on that matter," the ministry says.

They add from the ministry that the Croatian Embassy in Beijing continues to inform Croatian citizens in Wuhan on all measures and options for leaving the city and that the embassy will be at their disposal to ensure their return home goes well.

Given the increasing number of countries planning to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan, the ministry answered the question whether such a solution had been offered to Croatian nationals.

The embassy in Beijing is in contact with other Croatian citizens in the People's Republic of China and is available to them for any kind of consular assistance and support, the ministry adds.

The coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants in central China, and has spread throughout the province, which has become a sort of a quarantine.

None of the 106 deaths occurred outside of China, and all but six occurred in Wuhan, where the virus appeared last month.

Numerous countries started evacuating their nationals who will spend 14 days in quarantine upon returning home.

The total number of patients diagnosed with this infection in China has grown from 2,835 on Monday to 4,515 on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said.

The deadly novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, which appeared in China, will infect at least tens of thousands of people and the outbreak will carry on for several months, experts estimated on Tuesday based on the first available data.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 27 January 2020

WHO: No Reason in Croatia to Panic about Coronavirus

ZAGREB, January 27, 2020 - The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Office in Croatia, Antoinette Kaić-Rak, said on Sunday evening that there was no reason to spread panic in Croatia following the latest developments surrounding the outbreak of coronavirus in China.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

"I do not think that we should panic. The WHO's expert committee for emergency situations has not yet decided to declare this public healthcare crisis an international problem," Kaić-Rak told the national television (HTV) on Sunday evening.

She called for taking precautions.

"It is most important that the country's public healthcare system is prepared and that people are informed," she said, commenting on the situation in Croatia. Croatia's Health Ministry is expected to outlines measures for prevention of an outbreak of coronavirus in the country on Monday.

As for China, the WHO Committee that held a meeting a few days ago, welcomed the efforts made by that country to investigate and contain the current outbreak.

So far, 1,320 patients have been diagnosed with contracting this novel virus. The lion's share of them are in China, and also 23 cases have been reported to date in nine other countries. Also, 41 deaths have been confirmed in connection with that virus, and most of those victims were elderly people or people who also suffered from some other chronic health problems, said Kaić-Rak.

Four Croatian citizens are currently in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the novel coronavirus was first detected, the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated on Saturday, recommending delaying travel to that part of China.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

DAILY UPDATES: Total Croatia News provides LIVE daily updates on the coronavirus epidemic here.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Mimosa Day Marked in Zagreb

ZAGREB, January 25, 2020 - The national day for prevention of cervical cancer, known as Mimosa Day, was marked in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg square on Saturday with a traditional charity sale of branches of mimosa flowers.

The event, organised for the 13th year in a row to raise public awareness of the importance of cervical cancer prevention, was attended by Mayor Milan Bandić, who called on women to undergo regular medical check-ups and get vaccinated against the HPV virus.

The secretary-general of the Croatian Anti-Cancer League, Neda Ferenčić Vrban, called on parents to have their children, both girls and boys, vaccinated against HPV in eighth grade, as recommended by the national HPV vaccination programme.

Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) in 99.7 percent of cases. Since there is no effective cure against HPV, regular medical examinations are important to detect HPV infection as early as possible. The cervix is one of the most frequent cancer sites in women aged 20-49, and the most critical period for infection is adolescence.

About 300 women in Croatia are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and every third day one woman dies from it, the event was told.

Mimosa Day is organised by the Croatian Anti-Cancer League and the City of Zagreb Office for Health.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Croatian Foreign Ministry Issues Travel Alert on China

ZAGREB, January 24, 2020 - The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs on Thursday advised Croatian citizens to exercise caution and obtain detailed information on the novel coronavirus outbreak before travelling to China, but did not recommend delaying travel to the country for now.

The Ministry advised strict adherence to the usual measures for reducing the risk of respiratory diseases, and recommended closely following news from Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization about the state of the virus outbreak and the preventative measures to be taken.

The number of patients in China diagnosed with the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus reached 571 on Thursday, 17 of whom have died, the Chinese authorities said.

The number of afflicted people might increase in the coming days, when millions of people are expected to travel from large cities, such as Wuhan, for celebrations of the Lunar New Year starting on Saturday.

Cases of the disease have been reported in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States, as well as in the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

More news about the relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Around 200,000 People in Croatia Suffer from Depression

ZAGREB, January 21, 2020 - The Croatian non-profit association called "Životna linija" (Lifeline) on Monday marked Blue Monday, a day believed to be the most depressing day of the year, to warn that around 200,000 people in Croatia suffer from depression and are more at risk of suicide than the rest of the population.

The members of the association distributed chocolates and leaflets in Zagreb's central Ban Josip Jelačić Square under the slogan "Let's make the most depressing day of the year better." The leaflets warn that on average two people commit suicide in Croatia every day, which is around 700 people per year.

The president of the association, Tin Pongrac, pointed out that people suffering from depression were largely at risk of suicide. "Sometimes even just one kind word can mean the difference between life and death," he said.

According to World Health Organisation estimates, around 200,000 people suffer from depression in Croatia, but Pongrac thinks this is a conservative estimate. He thinks that as many as half a million people suffer from some form of depression.

Underscoring that depression is the second most serious problem in the Croatian public healthcare sector, he called on institutions to address the issue, which is becoming an increasingly great burden on the national health system.

He added that depression could be treated successfully. His association advocates a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. "The system prescribes antidepressants, but it should also provide patients with psychotherapy," he said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Croatian Doctor Accepts Harvard Researcher Position: Alen Juginović Story

Croatian Doctor Alen Juginović, a recent graduate of the Faculty of Medicine in Split, will be leaving Croatia in two weeks to start a Postdoctoral Researcher position at the most prestigious college in the United States.

Dr. Juginović graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in Split in 2018. In September 2019, he was in Houston, Texas completing the second of two US observership programs. Then, he had an idea. Since he was in the US, why not visit the top universities with Neuroscience programs? So, he reached out to the Neuroscience departments at Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Columbia to arrange campus visits.

Harvard Campus Visit Leads to Instant Job Offer

He spent a day and a half in San Francisco and walked among the majestic red-roofed Romanesque sandstone buildings of Stanford University in perpetually sunny Palo Alto. Then he jetted across the country to Boston. After touring MIT, he set off for a visit of the Neuroscience Department at Harvard. With a name tag pinned to his lapel, he met Dr. Dragana Rogulja, an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology. Instead of leading him on a tour of the department, Rogulja, originally from Belgrade, brought Juginović to her office where she began inquiring about his academic background, interests and experience. Two hours later, she offered him a job in her lab.

“Everything was moving in slow motion,” the young medical school graduate recounts. He had a bus to catch to New York City for his planned visit to Columbia University, so he briefly toured his future employer’s lab. They parted ways, and Rogulja promised Juginović that she would give him all the time he needed to think about her job offer. “You’re not dreaming,” she assured him. Upon departing the Ivy League institution, however, the young Croatian doctor was in such a state of shock, that he sat motionless and in a daze while he rode the Boston Metro. Then he realized that he had missed his bus to New York.

Alen Juginović waited over a month to accept the Harvard professor's offer.

Three months later, Total Croatia News received a tip about Dr. Juginović’s job appointment at the most prestigious university in the United States, if not the world.

“I am reaching out to you with an exceptional success story about a young Croatian doctor who, as one of a very small number of Croatians in history, is leaving for the most prestigious university in the world – Harvard! I believe that this story, with all its successes, is very positive, incredibly unique and motivating for everyone in Croatia, especially the young. They will see how it is possible to reach the top of the world from tiny Croatia. I would ask you to consider this ultimate story of medical success for publication in your portal,” the source, overwhelmed with enthusiasm, wrote to us while insisting upon remaining anonymous.

Unique Story Follows Long-Lasting Croatian Tradition

Another story of a young talented Croatian leaving the county for better opportunities abroad; what makes this story so unique and motivating, I wondered. What’s the message for young people? Work hard for a future which only exists beyond your country? That scenario is so commonplace, so predictable – and has flourished without interruption since boatloads of young Croatian emigrants, housed in cramped steerage on majestic passenger steam ships, began making their way in masses across the Atlantic over 130 years ago. Croatian independence, secured in a hard-fought war 105 years later, was supposed to curb mass emigration, not accelerate it. It's worth noting that Alen Juginović was born just a year before the last war officially ended.

The doctor and I agreed to meet at Vincek at 6pm on Friday. I’d passed the dessert café on Ilica many times but had never been inside. Frankly, I could do without the extra calories. I knew that the young doctor would arrive on time, a policy which seems to be hit or miss in this country, so I entered the very bright crowded café right at 6pm. As I meandered past glass cases of cakes and tarts, a lean spry figure passed me on the left from behind. I recognized him immediately, so I quietly followed him to the corner empty table, and waited for him to turn around, so as not to surprise him.

We shook hands and laughed about our simultaneous on-time arrival. He insisted on paying for dessert and coffee, I protested but quickly capitulated, still not entirely confident in Croatian customs. Juginović is a bright, wiry and very energetic figure. We chose sumptuous chocolate desserts, both of which were packed with calories. However, the young doctor, who was comfortably draped in an Adriatic-blue sport coat, white pressed shirt and muted chinos, showed absolutely no evidence of caloric abuse.

Juginović Outlines ‘Hygiene’ of Healthy Sleep Habits

I was pleased to learn that Dr. Juginović’s area of interest is studying and treating sleep disorders, because I’ve read a little about the subject, and could ask a few informed questions. Somewhere during the onset of middle-age, I had become a finicky sleeper. Sleeping a consecutive 8 hours is no longer a given, it has become a much-valued gift. So, we launched into a discussion about “sleep hygiene” as he called it. Admittedly, I was amused by the word hygiene, especially as it relates to Croatia. Try riding a crowded Zagreb tram in July and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about.

So the young doctor enthusiastically reviewed the necessary components for “sleep hygiene”, some of which I already knew: keep the same sleep schedule, afternoon naps are OK as long as they are shorter than 45 minutes, avoid computers and smartphones (blue light), the sleeping room should not house elements of daily awake life (work-related tools) etc. He then went on to review the stages of sleep, the mechanics of each stage and circadian rhythms. I mentioned that I had read, to my relief, that the concept of a consecutive 7 to 8-hour sleep pattern only came into existence at the turn of the 20th century. Before that, many societies thrived on segmented sleep, with an interim wake period, which was integrated into daily life. He emphasized that sleep cycles are adaptable but that humans are not nocturnal by nature.

Dr. Juginović struck me as someone who lives fully scheduled days where every minute is accounted for, so I steered our discussion toward his autobiography. It unfolds like a resume every job recruiter dreams about (undoubtedly during REM sleep): President of Student Union, founder of NeuroSplit and member of the organizing committee for ISABS conferences.


Practical Knowledge for Students | Alen Juginović

Organizer of World Class Medical Conferences in Split

Most notably, he was instrumental in organizing two Split-based world conferences. The first, Practical Knowledge for Students, is an annual event which provides medical, dental and pharmacy students the opportunity to practice key physical functions in their chosen professions: like suturing. Suturing, I thought, don’t students practice how to suture in medical school? Apparently, not enough. As the young doctor pointed out, students only know how to perform many of these tasks in theory. I immediately wondered if this was true for US medical schools too. The conference has been a smashing success and participation has ballooned to over 400 students, who arrive in Split from all corners of the world.

The second conference, Nobel Days, brought together four Nobel Prize winners in one auditorium for panel discussions, which were free and open to the public. The panel comprised of Biochemist Richard Roberts, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993; Biophysicist Joachim Frank, who received it in Chemistry in 2017; Physicist Georg Bednorz, who won the prestigious award in 1987; and Harald zur Hausen, a Virologist who received it for the discovery of the HPV virus and its association with cervical cancer. The 500-person capacity auditorium in Split was packed; with standing room only.

He also organized several fundraiser concerts with popular Croatian musicians to upgrade a home for children with special needs and finance improvements to pediatric and other medical facilities.

We briefly touched upon his observerships in Milwaukee and Houston, where he was impressed and surprised by the level of student involvement in extracurricular activities. Juginović considers participation in extracurricular activities essential for students’ well-being. It also brings balance to student life and takes the focus away from just attending classes and studying for exams. There are a lot of students who just spend their free time drinking coffee, he lamented, when they could be engaging with others in areas of personal interest and public concern. He also emphasized that he did not consider high grades to the most important criteria for success and even admitted that he didn’t have a perfect grade point average.

So, Juginović’s autobiography is full of significant and impactful achievements, which he shared with enthusiasm, energy and passion. It wasn’t at all difficult to imagine how he wowed that Serbian professor in Boston, who runs a lab at the most prestigious university in the world. And, their partnership suggests a promising overseas Serbo-Croatian collaboration, which is still a rarity in the homeland.


Nobel Days | Alen Juginović

The Croatian Journey to America Spans Over a Century

My grandfather arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Slavonia, which had departed Rijeka on a 19-day journey to America. The trans-Atlantic journey, which he had most likely spent in steerage, was long and grueling, but the young nation was open to everyone who arrived. One hundred fifteen years later, getting into America has become much more complex. One way is to successfully and illegally traverse an increasingly fortified Southern border. Another way is to obtain a H-1B visa, and eventually a Green Card, which can be a complicated affair, and is only expedited by possessing vast financial resources, outstanding individual talent or powerful connections.

In Dr. Juginović’s case, Dr. Rogulja and Harvard will likely process a H-1B visa application which allows a US employer to temporarily hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation. For a world renown institution like Harvard, that process will likely be streamlined and accelerated, regardless of legal route. It’s worth noting that Croatia remains among just a handful of EU countries for which the US still requires a visa for entry, even as a tourist. However, US and Croatian efforts are now finally underway to abolish that requirement within the next few years.

So, in a little over two weeks the young Croatian doctor will board a plane bound for America. He’ll arrive in Boston in a matter of hours, not weeks, where he will immediately be taken under Harvard’s wing and will undoubtedly surpass their high-performance standards. His job offer comes with a three-year renewable contract, and from there the possibilities are boundless. In the meantime, he must pack for relocation to “The Hub of the Universe”. And HRT (Croatian Radio Television) has just contacted him for a news feature, which will be filmed at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Zagreb, where he remains employed until his departure.

No Long-Term Plans to Return to Croatia Permanently

For a young man who proceeds with such deliberate intention; like organizing significant world conferences with science visionaries and planning personal tours of America’s top universities, I wondered where Dr. Juginović saw himself in the future. Did he consider America a place to expand his knowledge, absorb her best practices, learn from her shortcomings, and return to his homeland to share that vision, knowledge and optimism? Or was America a more permanent destination?

“I don’t think that far ahead, and am open to all opportunities,” he responded, and emphasized that his focus was on the moment and never extended beyond the next day or two. One could not help but sense the empty space that someone, who had been such a daily inspiration to fellow students, would leave behind. Is he coming back to visit, I wondered. He replied that he’d be back during summer break. How does summer break work for a researcher at a university, I thought aloud. Does it follow the academic calendar? He’d probably come back for a week, he answered tentatively and emphasized that his primary passion is to motivate students. “Never underestimate the power of students,” he proclaimed with conviction.

Even if Alen Juginović’s return visits to Croatia are brief and rare, I’ll safely bet that a more refined version of his story, which he shared with me over coffee and dessert, will appear as a TED Talk on YouTube. It’s simply not even a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. And sure enough, it turns out that his future Serbian mentor has already given a TED Talk. Young Croatians seeking motivation will be able to locate inspirational footage of the soon-to-be former Split resident online by a Google search. Some will be enchanted by his fulfillment of the American Dream, a concept which has long ago achieved mythical proportions. Others, perhaps, might be inspired to stay and effect change in their homeland. Dr. Juginović emphasized that his parents and three close friends have been his main source of inspiration.

Saying Goodbye and Reaching Out for Something New

He admitted that the last few weeks have been emotional. Late one night he sat on a bench ten meters from the sea with a close friend and disclosed that he was leaving for America. Without saying a word, the friend simply hugged him. “Everglow” by Coldplay was playing on the car radio on their way home and that song will always commemorate the moment, he reveals. Then he showed me a stunning image of a sunset taken high up in the hills overlooking Split and the Adriatic Sea. The soft horizontal bars of deep blue and orange were broken up by the silhouette of a young man with mussed up hair and the roof of a car. Flickering lights of Croatia’s second largest city, a city that existed long before the arrival of Croatian tribes, dotted the lower right-hand corner of the image. These were among the reflections of a young man saying goodbye.

Near the end of our conversation, we spoke briefly about his favorite songs. In addition to “Everglow”, he mentioned “Purple Rain” by Prince. We immediately agreed that it was impossible to enjoy songs with meaningless lyrics. In that context, “Purple Rain” seemed like an improbable choice, not to mention that the song was a massive worldwide hit a decade before he was born.

Prince explained the meaning of his song to an interviewer as follows: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.”

At the beginning of the song, the late musician’s lyrics appear to be directed toward an individual and allude to the end of a friendship. Then he acknowledges that times are changing and “it’s time we all reach out for something new, that means you too.” Had the young Croatian doctor experienced the end of a friendship? We hadn’t gotten that personal, but I suspect that his affinity for this song hinted at a more collective, rather than personal experience. Near the end of the legendary anthem, Prince calls out to his audience:

You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind

If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon, raise your hand

Follow our Lifestyle page and Diaspora page for more information on Croatians and their successes abroad. For updates on Dr. Juginović’s pursuits and health advice, follow his Twitter page here.

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