Dear Neil and HIFA colleagues,
I would like to contribute to this relevant and timely discussion, and I would like to shortly present the situation in Croatia regarding COVID-19 and essential health services. Basically, every hospital in the Republic of Croatia was impacted by the pandemic and had to reorganize its work, with many county general hospitals reorganizing at least one hospital ward into an isolation unit for the infected. Croatia has also prepared several checkpoints such as military tents in front of certain clinical hospitals.
Hospital policy all around the country is to admit only those patients whose life is in danger, which then creates a problem in access for many different health services. More specifically, all elective diagnostic and therapeutic procedures have been postponed, except those regarding cancer patients or pregnant women.
In order to ensure the continuity, some hospitals are providing telephone counseling. Family medicine doctors are advised to communicate with their patients by using telephone, e-mail or videoconference whenever possible.
All patients whose non-life threatening condition requires a medical examination are prompted to be examined at home, after the doctor makes sure they or any other household member were not exposed to COVID-19.
Furthermore, mobile palliative teams are envisioned to take a proactive role in providing home care services for chronic and palliative patients.
Each family medicine doctor is obliged to call all of their palliative patients and explain to them over the phone what they should do in the event of a worsening of their existing condition.
Due to the favourable epidemiological situation, certain changes have been introduced in the organization and operation of the school system. Schools are proceeding with activities related to the determination of physical and mental condition when enrolling in the first school year. During the testing, schools are required to adhere to appropriate epidemiological measures. Since May, classes have been made available for all children from 1st to 4th grade. Parents who still have reasons why they do not want to send their children to school may include the child in school teaching groups later on, but in the meantime they must provide conditions at home for distance learning and be in daily contact with teachers and assistants from the school.
Tomislav Meštrović, MD, PhD, MPH
HIFA country representative for Croatia
Tomislav Mestrovic is a medical doctor and a clinical microbiologist with a PhD in biomedical sciences, and an Assistant Professor at Croatia's youngest public university, University North. He is also passionately invested in global health communication, health literacy, science journalism and science diplomacy. Tomislav was appointed by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia as a Managing Committee Member to COST Action on evidence-based medicine run by the European Union. He holds several positions in international societies that resulted in many volunteering initiatives. He is a HIFA Country Representative.
Email address: tomislav.mestrovic AT gmail.com