Coronavirus in South Ossetia: medical supply shortages, one doctor’s protest, suspicions against Tbilisi
Officially, there are no reported cases of coronavirus in South Ossetia. But doctors are protesting their working conditions, as they are not being given protective suits, masks or gloves. And there is a huge problem with diagnosing and treating coronavirus patients.
How prepared is the healthcare system?
The intensive care unit at the infectious disease hospital is ready to accept coronavirus patients.
Official information states that there are currently 26 ventilators in South Ossetia.
But the issue is finding specialists who know how to operate them. Hooking a patient up to the machine is a difficult and painful procedure.
“They have three times more ventilators than they have specialists who know how to use them,” said South Ossetian Chief Critical Care Physician Alexander Pliev.
Even now, with no reported coronavirus cases, there is a shortage of supplies. The authorities believe this is due to the fact that masks, gloves, and bandages have all been mass exported over the past few weeks.
Even the medical staff do not have enough personal protective equipment. This resulted in a scandal at a local republican hospital.
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Doctor refuses to work without proper protection
Vladislav Valiev, a surgeon at the hospital in Tskhinval, wrote a statement to the director saying that he refused to go on duty until he received personal protective equipment, namely, masks, gloves, goggles, and protective overalls, which are all necessary during a quarantine.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development of South Ossetia tried to refute this information about the lack of personal protective equipment.
The ministry announced that it allocated an additional five thousand masks and 100 respirators to health workers.
The doctor’s statement was confidential and only distributed among the hospital staff. Several of his colleagues supported him. But then someone published a letter without his knowledge on Facebook, and the persecution began.
Valiev is accused of violating the Hippocratic Oath and medical ethics. Hospital administration threatened the surgeon with dismissal.
At the same time, many people stood up for the doctor. Those who know him personally write that Vladislav Valiev takes good care of his patients, even when he is off-duty:
“Who has the right to force him to risk his own life in order to save others? We must not save some by sacrificing others.”
“If only they had all sent in letters at once — that would put a fire under the administration’s ass. Maybe then they would understand that without doctors, we’re all finished.”
Valiev flatly refused to resign, and the threat of dismissal was taken off the table once the administration found out that he himself did not publish the letter and had no intention of causing a public scandal.
The conflict in the hospital was resolved, but the problem of medical shortages remains.
Alexander Pliev, Chief Critical Care Physician of South Ossetia, acknowledges the situation and discusses solutions.
“For objective reasons, the necessary amount of personal protective equipment was not delivered to the republic in a timely manner. My sources tell me that a local company, which will soon provide a certain amount of protective equipment, has also joined the support effort,” said Alexander Pliev.
Tighter quarantine measures
The quarantine regime has been tightened, and starting April 5, the border is only open to citizens of the republic, who are required to spend two weeks in self-isolation upon arrival.
Exceptions are made for cargo truck drivers, officials and Russian military personnel.
All vehicles are sanitized upon arrival at the Roki-Nizhny Zaramag border crossing.
Authorities state that there are currently eight people quarantined in the hospital.
“408 people are in self-isolation, 114 of whom are students who have returned home from studying abroad,” said Anna Gagloeva, an epidemiologist.
KGB wary of Georgia
South Ossetia is accessible from both Georgia and Russia.
As of April 7, there are 195 reported coronavirus patients in Georgia, and two of them have died. A state of emergency has been declared, the borders are completely closed, all stores excluding grocery stores and pharmacies are closed, public transport is non-operational, and the population is urged to stay home.
As of April 7, there are 7,497 coronavirus patients in Russia, and 58 of them have died. In Moscow and several regions, restrictions on movement were imposed, but a state of emergency has not yet been declared, many types of business continue to operate.
The South Ossetian KGB believe that Georgia presents the main threat of spreading coronavirus to the republic.
“In the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, the number of border violations from Georgia to South Ossetia have actually increased. On February 26, the first coronavirus case was reported in Georgia, and between February 26 and March 30, the South Ossetian Border Service reported about 20 violations,” said the South Ossetian KGB in a statement.
“So far there have been no such massive outbreak incidents, and this, of course, is no accident. It is particularly noteworthy that from March 23 to 30, several border violators showed signs of acute respiratory disease. It is very regrettable that among them were South Ossetian citizens. They are hospitalized and quarantined, and were tested for coronavirus. In order to ensure the security of South Ossetia, Georgian citizens have been expelled from the republic.”
Earlier, the border crossing points in Hrazdahan, Sinagur, Karzman and Khelchua were closed to South Ossetian citizens entering or leaving Georgia. Residents of the Leningor region of South Ossetia (Akhalgori in Georgian) returning home from Georgia are being placed in quarantine for two weeks.