Radio-Television Slovenia, with the journalists Vanja Kovač and Eugenia Carl, constructed an affair about the filing forms in the homes for the elderly in Slovenia. The elderly were allegedly denied treatment in hospitals due to COVID-19, and the government is being accused of compiling the so-called death lists. “But this was in no way a compiling of death lists. Such politicking and lying is reprehensible, primitive, and also offensive to medical staff in hospitals, nursing homes, as well as disrespectful to the elderly/patients, who are subject to such vile ways of scoring political points,” said Dr. Blaž Mrevlje. “In regards to the filing form which was shown on television, I myself would have also signed it,” said Minister of Health Tomaž Gantar.
RTV Slovenia has constructed a new affair. After the unsuccessful attempts at creating an affair related to the procurement of necessary medical equipment, they are searching for new alleged scandals and illegalities in order to try and hurt the government’s reputation. In an article written by the RTV Slovenija journalists Vanja Kovač and Eugenia Carl, documents about the filing forms were presented, which show that some elderly people in nursing homes would be denied hospital treatment in the event of contracting a COVID-19 infection. We spoke with a doctor with extensive experience from abroad, cardiologist Blaž Mrevlje, who explained to us that the Slovenian national media has once again made a story out of nothing. Minister of Health Tomaž Gantar assured that the Ministry did not compile any “death lists.” “But what is unfair, at least I believe so, is that someone is doing this with a clear political purpose,” the current health minister responded to the new unfounded accusations. “The left-wing governments that have been governing Slovenia in the last decade have obviously not made the elderly one of their priorities,” Romana Tomc, SDS’s MEP said in her statement.
Political discrediting and exploitation of relatives of the deceased
The Ministry of Health ensured that all procedures were correct. Minister Gantar said that the case of the filing forms was made public, and no one hid it. The Ministry’s instructions were clear, and they did not authorize anyone to compile a “death list.” He highlighted the case of palliative care in Slovenia, which he considers to be very good. In addition to the political discrediting he received in this case, Gantar is most sorry for the relatives of the deceased, who are being exploited in a showdown with the government. “I am most sorry for the relatives who are now doubting all the procedures because of all of this. There are absolutely no lists,” Gantar said.
Member of the European Parliament Romana Tomc critical of the left-wing opposition parties and RTV Slovenia
Similarly critical of the creation of fake affairs is MEP Romana Tomc, who has served as a state secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities in the past. Among other things, she was involved in the preparation of the pension reform. Tomc regrets that the fake affair, directed by RTV Slovenija, has become a reason for a new discrediting of the current government, which started its term amid the worst health crisis. “It is unfortunate that the national media outlet is even willing to take advantage of the dead to unsuccessfully discredit a successful government,” she said.
In Slovenia, the problems with long-term care for the elderly have now been present for more than a decade. And in the last decade, the relevant Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has been controlled by the Social Democrats, who have usurped institutions with their staff but have done nothing to draft a law on long-term care.
In our interview, Romana Tomc pointed out that, according to the National Institute of Public Health (Nacionalni inštitut za javno zdravje – hereinafter referred to as NIJZ), there are over 18,000 elderly people in nursing homes in Slovenia. Like many other countries across Europe, Slovenia was not able to avoid outbreaks of the epidemic in the homes for the elderly. However, according to Tomc, less than two percent of the people from the homes became infected, which mostly happened at the beginning of the epidemic. “That is a great result. The accusation that the elderly were not adequately cared for is extremely unfair to all health care workers and other workers in the system of care for the elderly. At the time of the epidemic, they, being exposed to the infection, tried their hardest to make isolation as easy as possible for the elderly residents. But instead of gratitude, they are being criticized by the media,” Romana Tomc, a long-time expert on the problems of the elderly, pointed out.
Tomc asked the Slovenian mainstream media who is to blame “for the care system in Slovenia being so malnourished.” The responsibility for the problems lies in the long rule of the left-wing government, which have done nothing when it comes to building new homes for the elderly, or anything else in terms of the long-term care management system. “The left-wing governments that have led Slovenia in the last decade have obviously not put the elderly people of our country on the list of priorities. Slovenia is the only country in the European Union that does not have this area regulated. I believe that the current government will be the one to successfully fulfil the commitment to Brussels.”
Most patients that require palliative care live in nursing homes, not all of them need hospital treatment
Cardiologist Dr. Blaž Mrevlje also responded to the manipulative reporting of RTV Slovenija. He was among the first to point out all the consequences and dangers of the COVID-19 epidemic in Slovenia. The health expert emphasized that in the case of an infection, both young and old healthy people or even people with other chronic pre-existing conditions do not necessarily need hospital treatment for the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Every stable patient with the classic signs of a respiratory infection can, just like with any other respiratory infection, be treated at home. Mrevlje ensured that in the case of deterioration, especially if the breathing becomes harder, or if the need for added oxygen or even mechanical ventilation becomes apparent, both young and old people, previously healthy or with pre-existing chronic conditions, are taken to the hospital for treatment – with the exception of those who are terminally ill, the so-called palliative patients.
In the hospital, they get the oxygen added through a mask in the regular ward. “In the case of severe complications of pneumonia, the patient is put under, intubated and connected to a ventilator, and other intensive care measures are performed if necessary,” Mrevlje told us. “Most of the so-called palliative patients reside in nursing homes.
RTV Slovenija does not know the difference between treatment, intensive care, and palliative care
The affair was produced by the RTV Slovenija journalists Eugenia Carl and Vanja Kovač. Unfortunately, both journalists forgot or deliberately withheld essential information about the disclosed documents, with which they caused a stir among the Slovenian public. An excellent connoisseur of Slovenian healthcare, dr. Blaž Mrevlje claims that they forgot to mention the difference between treatment, intensive care, and palliative care. “I could see that these three were being mixed up or even intentionally misinterpreted for the public, with the intention of politicking and scoring points. We treat everyone without pre-existing illnesses and all chronic patients with acute exacerbations, by all means necessary, for as long as it makes sense,” Mrevlje answered.
Further, he explained that in most cases, the treatment is successful, and the disease or condition improves, or the patient recovers completely. But sometimes, the condition gets worse. When that happens, the patients are transferred to intensive care units, where their vital functions are improved or replaces by intensive care procedures. “We perform this in patients and diseases for which the attending physician or council assesses that intensive treatment makes sense and as long as they assess it makes sense. In most cases, this course of action turns out to be successful, but not always,” said dr. Mrevlje.
However, in certain cases – most of the people in such condition live in nursing homes – the treatment does not make sense, especially not the intensive procedures. In cases like this, it does not make sense for a person to be transferred to a hospital, which does not mean that someone has decided not to treat that elderly person/patient. These decisions must, of course, be documented. And such documentation does not mean compiling a death list, as some, being complete illiterates in the field of medicine, have been trying to make it seem for political purposes in recent days, which is especially reprehensible when it comes to such a delicate topic, dr. Mrevlje believes.
At one of the government’s press conferences, doctor Marko Noč said that the occupancy of intensive care units in Slovenia was at 35 percent. This statement was then exploited by the dominant media outlets in the hands of the transitional left, which launched a new media and political war against the government. Let’s not forget that Violeta Tomić accused the government team led by Janez Janša of committing genocide against the elderly in the nursing homes. We would like to recommend Levica’s MP to take a look at the professional literature and educate herself on how healthcare professionals should treat those who cannot be helped by any additional treatment. However, absolutely everyone, from the opposition, to the “independent” media cartel, has forgotten whether such treatment is useful at all.
An important question to ask in situations like this one with the coronavirus is, which patient is offered help at all. Dr. Mrevlje pointed out that in the case of treating an elderly person who has had a chronic disease for many years and then gets infected with the COVID-19 virus, it would not seem wise to transfer them to a hospital. In a case like this, treatment is carried out according to the doctrine of palliative medicine. In most cases, these are elderly patients with many additional chronic diseases. As an example, he mentioned the patients with severe brain damage after extensive strokes or haemorrhages, and those who are severely injured in traffic accidents.
“To present a very common case of an elderly person who would not be transferred from the nursing home to the hospital in case of their health deteriorating – and I believe that the people will understand why: a 95-year-old with severe dementia, who has not been able to establish any meaningful contact with his relatives or the staff for many years now, who lies in his bed, completely dependent on foreign help when it comes to basic necessities of life, such as feeding, who has been lying in a nursing home for five years, with bedsores and contractures. One day, the staff take his temperature and see that it is high, and he tests positive for SARS-CoV-2. Yes, he needs to be isolated, so that the infection is not transmitted to others. Yes, we would continue with the palliative medical procedures. And no, such a patient would not be transferred to the hospital in the case of his health deteriorating, let alone to an intensive care unit. All procedures would have been a disproportionate burden for him, given the basic situation, without any sensible way out. That is why we do not do that,” dr. Mrevlje explained.
Mrevlje critical of the representatives of the Slovenian opposition, claiming their actions are a vile and primitive way to score political points
The dominant Slovenian media outlets did not forget to publish sensitive, sad stories about the homes for the elderly. Therefore, it is all the viler that their deaths are being exploited for a fight against the responsible individuals from the Ministry of Health and the government. Dr. Mrevlje explained to us that in hospitals, the attending physician is the one responsible for the patient’s condition, while in nursing homes, commissions with several members are the ones who decide on such matters.
In both cases, the decision must be documented. Dr. Mrevlje ensured that such procedures are important for legal and practical reasons: “In the case of a sudden deterioration of the condition, the doctor on duty, who does not necessarily know the elderly person/patient, does not start unnecessary and, in such cases, inhumane resuscitation procedures of the elderly person/patient, nor does he transfer them to a hospital or to an intensive care unit.”
In this case, the long-lasting neglect of the field of long-term care by the left-wing governments has been evident. In regards to the filing forms, dr. Mrevlje said that perhaps they were not being filled out routinely in nursing homes before, and “this problem, like many others, became apparent during the epidemic.” Dr. Mrevlje warned that due to the panic rushing, appropriate communication between the staff and the relatives might not have been established. Therefore, it would be much better to improve this area in the future.
Dr. Mrevlje was surprised that the opposition and the media began to incite against the government because of the so-called “death lists.” For him, this is politicking, a vile, primitive action, insulting to the medical staff in the hospitals, healthcare centres, and nursing homes, which have become the subject of such a nasty tactic to score some political points.