BULGARIANS ARE NOT READY TO FIGHT MORTAL INFECTIONS
A week ago Bulgaria's Minister of Healthcare, Bozhidar Finkov, ordered all hospital directors to get their departments ready to accept casualties from possible terrorist bio-attacks. Now it turns out, however, that the hospitals are not prepared. Medical workers have no reliable protection clothes which they need in order to visit dangerous and contageously ill patients. Most of the GPs are unable to distinguish the symptoms of anthrax from those of bubonic plague. Moreover, laboratories all over the country do not have the necessary capacity to produce the amounts of serum needed to fight some mortal bacteria. There are no resources for their production, either. This is information confirmed to the BANKER weekly by Dr. Angel Kounchev - head of the Antiepidemiologic Control Department at the Ministry of Healthcare.The only place in Bulgaria that provides conditions for creation of serum that fights anthrax, botulism, diphtheria, gas gangrene, is the BulBio laboratory at the Institute of Contageous and Parasitic Diseases. A week ago the Epidemiologic Supervision Council at the Healthcare Ministry recommended that Mr. Finkov provide BGN425,000 extra funds to prepare the laboratory to produce a large amount of life-saving injections. The council insisted that other BGN381,000 be invested in the renovation of the outdated equipment and modernization of the laboratory in Rousse. This lab produces vaccines against infections such as cholera, tetanus, and diphtheria. If necessary, it can also produce small-pox vaccines, said Dr. Kounchev.By end-February, however, no money has been provided for renovation of the medical equipment of the two labs. Despite the instructions of minister Finkov, lots of medical workers have not yet been instructed how to act in case of attacks with mortal viruses and bacteria.That's why in the course of one week starting March 3 the regional healthcare centres will be organizing obligatory courses for the doctors. Special guides will be handed in to the general practitioners.The Sofia infection hospital is among the few in Bulgaria that as early as February 24 equipped each of two sectors with twenty beds. If necessary, they will accept patients infected by biological weapons. The whole staff of the hospital - from doctors to ambulance drivers, have passed a refreshing course in order to be able to distinguish the symptoms of cholera, smallpox, and diphtheria, and to prevent themselves from being infected with them while they cure the patients.We supplied the department pharmacy with antibiotics, antidote, serums, vaccines, disinfectants, and glucosis and solution banks for unforeseen situations. There are supplies for four days, the hospital director, Dr. Kostadin Kostov, said. Out of the stores are also the twelve protective clothes for the medical officers who will accept and treat patients infected by dangerous viruses.The problem, according to Dr. Ivailo Elenkov, appointed to preside the newly-established department, is that the models are produced during the socialist era and are as safe as the era itself. Rubber overalls meant to protect doctors while working with blood and blood products are so outdated that even butchers no longer use them.The Bourgas multi-profile hospital has developed a plan to react in case of massive bio-attacks, too. According to this plan, the department should be transformed into a specialized sector to treat particularly dangerous infections within thirty minutes.Other Sofia hospitals - St. Anna, Alexandrovska, and Tsaritsa Yoanna, provided instructions to their personnel, too. All hygiene-epidemiologic inspections are ready to react to extraordinary circumstances, too.