Polish hospitals struggle with surge of virus patients

BOCHNIA, POLAND (AP) — Polish hospitals struggled over the weekend with a massive number of people infected with COVID-19 following a huge surge in infections across Central and Eastern Europe in recent weeks.

Tougher new pandemic restrictions were ordered in Poland for a two-week period to slow down the infection rate. The country hit new records of over 35,000 daily infections on two recent days, and deaths have been in the hundreds each day.

The aim of the new restrictions was to prevent large gatherings over the long weekend. Meanwhile, the government is also trying to speed up the country’s vaccine rollout, but the pressure on the country’s hospitals is still relentless.

On Sunday, coronavirus patients filled almost all of the 120 beds at the County Hospital of Bochnia, 40 kilometres east of the southern city of Krakow.

“It is a difficult situation, because there are a lot of patients,” said Bozena Gicala, a nurse treating COVID-19 patients who spoke to Associated Press reporters visiting the hospital. She said the support of her colleagues was critical in managing the unprecedented situation.

Another nurse, Ewa Ptak, said she had COVID-19 herself and is on a mission to help those who are suffering more than she did.

“Thankfully, I went without a hospital and I was fine. But I know what it is and I just want to help people,” Ptak said.

One patient, 82-year-old Edward Szumanski, voiced concerns about how some people still refuse to see the virus that has killed over 2.8 million people worldwide as a threat. Poland has seen about 55,000 of those deaths.

A health worker carries medication inside the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital in Bochnia, Poland. PHOTO: AP