Friday, 23 September 2022

Epilepsy Patients Wait 18 Months, Crucial Diagnostic Machine Remains Broken

September 23, 2022 - It is no secret that public health in Croatia can be painfully slow and inefficient. And while most people experience that inefficiency in waiting times for routine check-ups, the number of people whose lives depend on it is heart-breaking. It ranges from bloodwork crucial for cancer diagnoses and life-saving medicine to potentially life-changing tests that could be done using an old machine. Nothing fancy, no super-advanced technology, just a machine that has been there for ages. Then it broke down. One year ago. Epilepsy patients are left waiting for a potentially life-changing diagnosis.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders with a wide range of symptoms. It causes seizures of varying intensity, duration and frequency. While some people can carry on with their daily lives with minor interruptions, for some, it is debilitating. The cortical stimulator machine is used for detecting which parts of the brain are causing epileptic seizures and to see if it is possible to operate on those parts and potentially set the patients free of this life-altering condition. Unfortunately, if sensitive parts of the brain are affected, where surgery could interfere with vital functions, it might not be the solution, but often enough, it could prove helpful. At the very least, the test might set the patients on the right course for treatment or management of the condition. KBC Zagreb had one, and then it broke down in September 2021. 

As RTL reported in April 2022, when the old machine broke down, the hospital showed a willingness to get a new one but somehow "got stuck". In the meantime, the patients have been on hold; their epileptic seizures keep coming one after the other, and the medical staff can't even give an approximate date on the phone when they can expect an appointment. Until the device is fixed, there will be no diagnoses.

Back then, it was also stated that there were 19 patients on the waiting list for diagnostics using the device, and these patients, according to prim. Dr Novak, in the meantime, also reported for outpatient neurological check-ups at the Centre for Epilepsy.

About 40 thousand people have epilepsy in Croatia. The disease can be controlled in most cases. Still, for about 25 per cent of patients, medicine is not enough, and doctors sometimes decide to remove the parts responsible for epileptic seizures surgically.

One of such patients took to Reddit to plead for the help of the media in sharing his story, desperate that one year later, nothing has changed and that the waiting list of 19 people has not moved. Having waited for over 18 months, he suspects the list might even be longer by now. He experiences partial epileptic seizures daily, medicine alone does not help, and the only hope is the option of surgery, which can only be determined by tests on the machine in question. 

And here is where the absurdity lies. Apparently, "KBC Zagreb themselves stated that the funds are available, the father of a patient offered to collect money through donations, and one even allegedly offered to buy a new machine and donate it to KBC, to which he was told that it could not be done that way". The patients are left wondering and guessing why the delay is happening. Was it Covid setting it all back, maybe private interest that is not being met, something else? Who knows. 

The very least we can do is talk about it, share the desperate calls for help, ask those in charge to acknowledge the problem, and maybe even start working on it. Wouldn't that be a wonder?

If you are one of the patients, their family or friends and would like to share your story; or are in a position to help, advise or direct the patients who still need help, please contact us.

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


Monday, 4 April 2022

Tourism Ministry Earmarks €200K to Co-Fund More Medical Teams on Adriatic coast

4 April 2022 - Croatia's ministry of tourism and sport will earmark HRK 1.5 million to co-fund the hiring of additional medical teams in tourist destinations in the seven Adriatic counties to raise the level of healthcare services during the summer season.

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac was quoted as saying in a press release that the ministry co-finances medial teams, as well as the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service and the Red Cross, and also cooperates with the interior ministry in the "Safe Tourist Destination" project.

The project of making financial contributions to the hiring of additional medical teams was launched in 2008 and since then HRK 23.4 million (€3.12 million) has been earmarked for that purpose.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Zadar's Bacteriological Institute: Croatian Public Health As It Once Was

May 15, 2020 — Croatia has grown well-acquainted with its medical professionals and public health institutes. But what about their ancestors?

The National Archives in Zadar created a virtual exhibit of the town’s former Bacteriological Institute, a predecessor to the modern epidemiologists and public health apparatus. The slideshow and text is part of the joins the seventh festival of history - Kliofest.

Taken together, it chronicles the institute's creation then nearly instant battles with a cholera outbreak. Many of its practices — of informing the public, communicating strategies — exist today.

Archivist Edi Modrinić organized the exhibition, bringing photographs and newspaper articles from the institute’s founding in the late 19th century to the end of World War II. 

The photos show sparse labs and researchers working in a sterile white environment.

The Bacteriological Institute was located within a military hospital, in the former monastery St. Nikola. It’s now the International Center for Underwater Archeology in Zadar.

The 19th century bred many scientific discoveries, especially in the fields of physiology, pathology, and microbiology. The changes eventually bred a sea change in health care. A chemical-bacteriological laboratory was founded in Zadar at the end of the 19th century to exploit these advances. It was led by a young doctor, Alfons Boara. It dissolved quickly, but local medical professionals saw a need for such a facility.

Dr. Božo Peričić in 1905, encouraged by a local cholera outbreak, publish a translation of a scholarly article about the need for public medical facilities and institutes in local paper Narodni List. Peričić — well known in local circles — "considered it worthwhile to translate it, because even in our circumstances, reading will be useful to everyone, and it may encourage our leaders to think and act more vividly in regard to some of the issues raised here.”

Looking out for the public good (and perhaps some more stable employment), Peričić asked the institute be revived to protect against typhus, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and cholera. The diseases hit Zadar in waves throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, along with the plague, making the Adriatic hub one of the world’s foremost authorities on mass quarantine.

“About ten years ago, such a laboratory was established on the Dalmatian governorate,” Peričić wrote. “Sure it was a start but definitely a good start. Envy and negligence quickly found themselves at work to destroy everything. The view of epidemics (dangers to which Dalmatia as a country by the sea is more exposed than others) and the view of the antimalarial struggle, the lack of a well-organized laboratory is a shame and damage from which other provinces do not suffer.”

The Bacteriological Institute’s second iteration opened in 1912, the first institution of its kind in Dalmatia.

They aimed to improve scientific efforts and control in the fight against epidemics and infections, and at the same time to educate future doctors. 

The institute was equipped with modern devices, materials, and resources, which can be seen in the photos. Among other things, it had ten study rooms that housed a hygiene department, a bacteriology department, an animal research room. In it, various diseases could be diagnosed by biochemical and microbiological methods, such as malaria. 

The institute turned into a hub of medical and serological innovation, including the first case of brucellosis or undulant fever.

The Dalmatian Governorate invested substantial sums of Vienna’s money into the institute to fund its research. 

After the First World War, the Institute continued to operate as the Laboratory of Hygiene and Bacteriology (Laboratorio di vigilanza igienica e batteriologica). About 600 bacteriological, chemical and bromatological tests were performed that year. 

The laboratory was led by bacteriologist Dr. Giovanni Venturelli, who led a lavish and well-equipped institute — in danger of closing due to lack of work. In 1923, the Ministry decided to close the laboratory only to be reopened again in 1934.

During the Allied bombing in World War II, the laboratory building was severely damaged, yet some laboratory equipment was preserved. A new chemical-bacteriological laboratory was opened on October 6, 1944 — the fourth version — in a small villa housing the naval command ambulance was located at the time. It remained underutilized until Zadar’s hospital opened. This final iteration of the laboratory is considered a parent to the Croatian Institute of Public Health — currently leading the charge against the coronavirus by Krunoslav Capak.