Czech government seeking foreign aid to help bring epidemic under control

Photo: ČTK/David Taneček

As the coronavirus crisis deepens, the Czech government is taking measures to prevent the collapse of the health system, burdened by a growing number of hospitalizations and the spread of the infection among medical staff. In addition to ordering in medical students and calling on volunteers the government is also trying to secure help from abroad to tide over hospitals at the height of the epidemic.

The Czech government has called on anyone with medical training, including people who have left the profession or are working abroad to come back and help out as the country braces for the worst health crisis in its modern history.

Although the Czech Republic has a robust health system the ranks of doctors and nurses have been depleted by the coronavirus and with the steep rise in the number of hospitalizations there may soon be a shortage of hospital beds and ventilators.

On Thursday the government formally approved the possible deployment of up to 300 medics from other NATO and EU member states for a period of 90 days. Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said the first to arrive would be a team of 28 military doctors from the Texas and Nebraska National Guards.

Lubomír Metnar, photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

“They are experienced military doctors who fought against COVID-19 in the United States. The team will arrive at the end of next week and will be deployed at Prague’s Central Military Hospital from where they may be dispatched elsewhere, depending on current need.”

Minister Metnar said similar negotiations are underway with Germany and a number of other countries.

Meanwhile, EC President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday that the EU is immediately sending a first batch of 30 ventilators from rescEU - the common European reserve of medical equipment set up earlier this year to help countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. “We are in touch with other EU countries, to mobilise more ventilators for the Czech Republic. We are in this together” von der Leyen said.

The Czech Medical Chamber had appealed to Czech doctors and nurses working abroad to come home and help out. So far about twenty of them have responded to the appeal. However the health system may be weakened by the fact that other countries are also recalling their doctors home, and Czech hospitals are currently relying on many doctors and nurses from Slovakia and Ukraine.

Presently over 5,000 Czech doctors and nurses are fighting the infection and the number of infected is growing by the hundreds every day, resulting in a loss of personnel from specialized units such as intensive care.

Experts say the next three weeks are going to be crucial, with the epidemic expected to culminate around November 10.