BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian doctors sent an open letter Wednesday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health care system copes with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.
The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.
“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can’t breathe.… I’m not vaccinated.”
Romania, a country of 19 million people, is the European Union member nation with the population second-least vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 34% of its adults are fully inoculated, compared to an EU average of 74%.
On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicate that more than 90% of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
“Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers,” the letter from Bucharest’s doctors reads.
The pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend nonemergency medical procedures for 30 days and to ask the EU for help.
Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said last week that the EU would send 250 oxygen concentrators to Romania, which on Tuesday received 5,200 doses of monoclonal antibodies from Italy. Several dozen COVID-19 patients will also be sent to intensive care units in Hungary this week.
Dragos Zaharia, a primary care doctor at Bucharest’s Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, thinks Romanian authorities should have enlisted a “famous personality” to lead the country’s vaccination campaign.
“Only anonymous guys are leading this fight,” Zaharia told The Associated Press. “It’s heartbreaking for us when we know that a lot of those who died could have lived, if they would have been vaccinated.”
This version corrects city reference in sixth paragraph to Bucharest, not Budapest.