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The Minister of Health unveiled Poland’s coronavirus response strategy for autumn. There will be more mobile sample collection points and more hospitals prepared to take care of infected patients.  

-It’s going to be a „smart” strategy – said the new Minister of Health, Adam Niedzielski. In this case, smart means that the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus will depend on the infection scale in a given region or city. – We don’t think it’s necessary to introduce a single solution for the entire country. Our risk management strategy is becoming more flexible now. - he pointed out. Talking about the importance of considering factors like social and economic costs besides public health while devising the country’s coronavirus response strategy, the minister also made it clear that another lockdown is out of question. He mentioned the decision to reopen schools as an example. A different decision would’ve meant that parents, forced to stay at home to take care of their children and watch their learning progress, couldn’t go to work. This, in turn, would mean high costs for Poland’s economy at large. The “psychological costs” imposed on children deprived of social contact with their peers (necessary for a healthy development process) is yet another issue. 

No more hospitals designated for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. What’s the alternative? 

The government is doing away with hospitals designated exclusively to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. Medical care for patients showing symptoms of infection will be provided on three levels. City and district-level hospitals will be the first one. Each of them will be equipped with an isolation ward for patients suspected of being infected. Their task will be to receive the patient, run a test, and, in case the result turns out positive, refer him/her further to one of the 87 level-two hospitals, where the COVID-19 patients requiring specialist care will be treated in the infectious diseases ward or the intensive care ward. Multispecialty hospitals, providing an entire spectrum of medical treatments besides infectious disease care, will constitute the third level. Hospitals like these will receive COVID-19 patients who also need additional medical care. There will be 9 multispecialty hospitals for the entire country, including, for example, the Military Clinical Hospital No.4 in Wrocław, University Hospital in Kraków, or the Central Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration in Warsaw.

-Even though hospitals designated exclusively to treat patients infected with the coronavirus are disappearing, it doesn’t mean a reduction in hospital beds available to these patients. – the Deputy Minister of Health, Waldemar Kraska, pointed out. 

There are also plans to increase the number of „drive-thru” sample collection stations. Mobile points like these allow to collect a sample directly from the driver, without even the necessity of getting out of the car. Currently, there are 260 such points around Poland. The Health Minister promised to increase their number to 400 so that there is one in each district (powiat). He also promised to extend their opening hours- as of now, nearly all mobile points are open for two hours a day. 

The sanitary inspectorate which, as „Wyborcza” reported in a last week’s article, is largely inefficient and underfunded, is to be relieved by an emergency helpline set up specifically for people in quarantine and isolation. The sanitary inspectorate employees are to focus on a more efficient collection of epidemiological intelligence. –The telephone line should be ready to receive first inquires within the next month- Niedzielski announced.

Symptomatic patients will be tested. What about the rest?

The second component of the government’s autumn coronavirus response strategy is supposed to include “targeted testing for symptomatic patients”. People who have come into contact with an infected person and were put under quarantine will no longer be tested. Those staying in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus will automatically be released after 10 days, provided they aren’t showing any symptoms. It means no further testing which up until now has been required. 

Testing will be mandatory for people in higher-risk groups. For example, before being admitted to a sanatorium, a nursing home, or a hospice, a person will have to be tested for COVID-19. 

People who experience symptoms such as fever or coughing should no longer call the sanitary inspectorate but get in touch with a primary health care provider instead. – We want the process to begin with a telephone medical consultation. Of course, if the symptoms persist or become more severe after a couple of days, it’ll be necessary that a doctor sees the patient in person and eventually refer him/her for further testing. – the minister announced. 

Should the test turn out positive, the patient will be referred for treatment at an infectious diseases ward. – I’d like all of us to calm down. Primary health care providers won’t be responsible for treating patients infected with the coronavirus – said Niedzielski, referring to the protests of family doctors who already announced that they won’t let their clinics become “coronavirus breeding grounds”.

Professor Andrzej Horban, a national consultant specializing in infectious diseases, also tried to calm down the concerned doctors. – We’re not exactly sure how many coronavirus infections there are in the group of respiratory tract infections that we see right now, but it is certainly not the dominant factor. Most infections are caused by other viruses- he assured them. 

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