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-Patients can count on us, but we will not allow politicians to blame us for their own failures. We’ve seen these methods before. They’re simply disgraceful. All pro-government media are now trying to turn the public against us. We’ve expected an apology from the Deputy Prime Minister, but instead, we got a smear campaign targeting our entire professional field – says dr. Magdalena Wiśniewska, the President of the District Medical Board in the city of Szczecin.

Since Tuesday, the ruling Law and Justice party and its loyalist media outlets have been pushing a narrative about the government’s successful strategy in dealing with the second wave of coronavirus epidemic. The only problem, in their view, is the professional negligence of medical workers. As the Minister of State Assets and the Deputy Prime Minister, Jacek Sasin, has put it: they’re avoiding their duties because they’re scared.

Head of the Supreme Medical Council, prof. Andrzej Matyja, sees this attack as the government’s attempt at shifting the responsibility for a failed coronavirus response to medical workers.

The epidemic situation in Poland is getting out of hand. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported a record daily increase in new coronavirus infections: 8099. 91 people have died, and 467 ventilators are already in use.

A smear campaign against medical workers

Instead of publishing an apology from Mr. Sasin, government-friendly media started a smear campaign against medical workers: “Medical workers are fleeing from their professional responsibilities on a massive scale!”- wrote the right-wing news portal wPolityce.pl.

The Polish Press Agency (PAP) provided more details: in the Opolian Silesia region in southern Poland, only 13 out of 179 doctors and medical workers delegated by the governors to specific hospitals decided to answer the call. In the Silesia region, 61 out of 132 medical workers fulfilled their duty.  

On Wednesday, the government-controlled public broadcaster TVP also joined the campaign. In a five-minute-long report aired during the prime-time newscast, Konrad Wąż directly attacked medical workers for their alleged negligence, while praising the government’s coronavirus response strategy.

Later, the news anchor, Danuta Holecka, read out an “Appeal to Medical Workers”. It said: “District Medical Boards are reluctant to delegate medical workers to fight the coronavirus epidemic. After the governors called on them to assign specific responsibilities to doctors and nurses, the number of sick leaves suddenly increased. There were also cases of doctors quitting their job outright. In some provinces, the Medical Boards did not even delegate a single person to fight the COVID epidemic”.

The message is clear: medical workers are a degenerate professional group that needs to be publicly begged on prime-time television to help those in need.

"We cannot just ignore hard facts" – Mr. Sasin complained on Twitter. The governor of Mazovia, Konstanty Radziwiłł, a doctor, accused his fellow medical professionals of quitting their jobs when the hospitals need them most.

During a state of epidemic, governors have the power to assign medical personnel to specific facilities. What the government-friendly media and politicians fail to mention, however, is the fact that many of the medical workers whom the governors decided to delegate were either single mothers, pensioned doctors, or were needed elsewhere and could not leave their post without creating additional risk. Some of them were simply ill themselves.

– This is a risky, and not a very thought-through decision. If there is a shortage of family doctors, for instance, there will be even more COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, because they will lose access to quick diagnosis and medical care- says dr. Jacek Krajewski, head of the Hospital and Healthcare Employers’ Association “Porozumienie Zielonogótskie”.

Yesterday, the Supreme Medical Council issued an open letter to media and politicians: “In the face of a pandemic that has made the deficiencies of our healthcare system even more visible, medical workers need tangible support from the government, and not false accusations and more insults spread by some politicians and media outlets” – reads the letter.

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