Real existing Orbánism

Hospital begs for donations – then apologizes for ruining government’s PR

  • 5 boys’ pajama size 110-128 (buttoned)
  • Flip flops (plastic, washable) size 38-39-40-41-42-43 one each
  • 20 white towels
  • 7 shower heads with pipe and tap
  • 50 E 27 light bulbs
  • 40 G24d-1 (900 lumen/13Watt) light bulbs
  • Baby pulzoxymeter kettle
  • 1 microwave oven
  • 3 refrigerators, 110 l

These were things asked by the department of child surgery. One can only wonder which actual diagnostic equipment was also missing that the hospital couldn’t ask from the kind-hearted public, even if they wanted to.

In a desperate attempt to stay afloat, Szt. János, a Budapest hospital asked for donations before Christmas. The alarming list of basic things went viral. It didn’t surprise anyone. If you ever set foot in a Budapest hospital, you will know that the shockingly underpaid employees are fighting the unwinnable war against missing finance – and you would rather not think about the consequences. Diluted disinfectant? Recycled plastic gloves? Surgery because the non-invasive diagnostic equipment is simply missing? Unnecessary lines and waiting because buggy software was acquired from a nephew at a corrupt public procurement tender and the hospital had to pay for it but they could not use? We saw them all.

When I fell ill and needed an emergency operation 10 years ago, the first responding doctor told me that he should send me to “János” (the hospital in question) because they were on duty that night – “but you wouldn’t stand a chance there”. So he changed the time of admission and sent me to another, slightly better equipped hospital. I had only hours to live at that point – and János is known for making patients wait for much longer than that.

In fact, emergency rooms – if they still operate despite the labor shortage – tend to make patients wait for hours and days in line. From time to time a story about a patient lost due to 20-hour waiting makes it to the media – and that is that. When the minister of livestock human resources was confronted with the problem he 1) blamed the patients for going there rather than spending months navigating the normal medical route, then 2) came up with the wonderful idea of introducing triage in emergency care. Like no one ever thought of that before!

Sadly, they did. But with zero doctors on duty, there is no line that can be managed faster by rearranging patients. The whole thing looks more like military triage when the most severe injuries are left untreated in favor of the soldiers who might still be saved.

So that is the János hospital for you, a place where you could shoot an apocalyptic zombie movie without any special effect – you could even use the patients and the nurses as extras. As is.

The fact that they don’t have toilet paper or toilet seats is not a surprise – only a naive foreigner would go in there without bringing his own toilet paper, syringes, medications and, preferably, doctors.

The whole hospital is stretched on a scenic hillside though, prime real estate, and I expect some oligarch or Family member descending on it any minute. But until that happens, the hospital is still heroically trying to maintain the illusion of being operational. Because if they don’t, that would give poor Fidesz a bad name – and that’s a more severe crime than letting a townful of people to die of preventable causes every year just because healthcare is left to rot in favor of football. You don’t believe that poor PR is a more severe transgression than actual failure? Then look at the government’s reaction to the miserable list.

Upon the list going viral the government did what the government needs to do. To stay in power, that is – not to save lives. They growled at the hospital to stop ruining their reputation by suggesting that healthcare is not totally funded in Hungary.

So the hospital management winced and visibly started to sweat. They were now between a rock and a hard place. They came up with the heart-warming Christmas crowdfunding plea to somehow make the unsustainable situation work – but it meant publicity to the fact that the situation is unsustainable.

So they have replaced the donation request on Facebook with a hand-wringing, bending-over-backwards explanation of how the silly, silly employees who put together the list have misunderstood their task and accidentally put things on the list that the hospital naturally (of course, pinkie-swear!) supplies to patients. Which begs the question what then was missing that they could have raised through donations – but was not embarrassing to the government.

Then the hospital management expressed regret that the list was taken out of context and was “used as a political tool” by the “opposition press that makes a beautiful symbol of solidarity and social responsibility part of its own negative campaign”.

The donation period was between 1-24 December. The last election in Hungary was on 13 October. What campaign? And more importantly: why so scared?

The whole reaction by both the government and the hospital management belongs straight in the 1950s party state era when Our Party And Government provided everything to the Working People and only bourgeois sabotage stood between us and socialist paradise.

Orbán an anti-communist, my ass…

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